The Assange Case Could Prove The Most Important Press Case In 300 Years

Below is my column for BBC on the Assange espionage charges. As I have written, I believe that Attorney General Bill Barr is dead wrong on these charges — a view apparently shared by at least two of the prosecutors on the team. Until now, President Donald Trump’s disturbing rhetoric against the media has been disconnected from actual moves against the media with the exception of suspending press passes or changing rules for the White House press corp. This is a quantum leap in the wrong direction. Indeed, this prosecution could easily become the most important press case since John Peter Zenger.

Here is the column:

For over a decade, there has been a raging debate over precisely what Julian Assange is – whistleblower, journalist, or spy. 

Now that question will have to be answered after the United States hit him with 17 new counts under the Espionage Act for receiving and publishing information from Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The Trump administration has now crossed the line that many counselled it to avoid – and may have triggered the most important press freedom case in the US in 300 years.

While the status of Assange has long been hotly debated, his actions in publishing classified information on Wikileaks is a common component of journalism. Indeed, the most celebrated cases in history – such as the failed attempts to stop the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 – were based on the publications of classified evidence.

Assange’s supporters note that his publications revealed alleged war crimes in places like Afghanistan and Iraq that were unlikely to have been exposed otherwise. If it was a crime for Assange to receive and publish such information, much of the journalism in the US would become a de facto criminal enterprise.

In April, the government avoided this threshold question by charging Assange with a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge related to helping Manning obtain access to defence department computers in 2010. In doing so, the justice department stayed clear of charging him as a publisher as opposed to an intruder. That is until Thursday.

The charges were brought under the controversial Espionage Act of 1917. Passed after World War One, it was used to target anti-war activists and political dissidents. 

The government charged figures ranging from German-American Socialist congressman (and newspaper editor) Victor Berger to anarchist and author Emma Goldman to five-time Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs.

The law has long been denounced as unconstitutional in its criminalising of receiving and publishing classified information. It is no surprise that the justice department had to use this much-ridiculed law to achieve this ignoble goal. 

Counts nine through 17 against Assange concern the publications of “national defence information.” The justice department takes pains to try to argue that Assange is not a journalist and that the publication counts concern the disclosure of not just classified information but the actual names of intelligence sources. That however may establish that Assange is a poor journalist, but a journalist all the same.

If successful, the justice department would have not only the ability to prosecute but to investigate a wide array of journalists. This danger is made all the more acute in an administration headed by a president who routinely calls the press “the enemy of the people”.

However, the danger did not begin with President Trump. The Obama administration used this law to conduct surveillance on mainstream journalists, including a well-regarded Fox News reporter. 

The Obama administration reportedly rejected the option of a criminal charge against Assange under the Espionage Act, in recognition of the danger to press freedom. Mr Trump and Attorney General William Barr have now crossed that Rubicon.

This also comes at a particularly precarious time for journalists around the world. Reporters are being arrested and killed in increasing numbers. Some countries like China and Russia have even taken up the Trump trope of “fake news” to crack down on the press. Most vividly, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is accused of ordering the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – yet has suffered few consequences from the Trump administration.

It is not just the “usual suspects” attacking the free press. Just this week, the French government put three journalists under criminal investigation for disclosing alleged lies by French officials on the country’s role in the war in Yemen.

A couple days later a senior reporter, Ariane Chemin, at the renowned French Le Monde, was called in for questioning after revealing embarrassing details about a former bodyguard to President Emmanuel Macron.

Now the US, once the bastion of free press, is trying to establish that any journalist can be prosecuted for receiving or publishing classified information. Since the government routinely over-classifies a wide array of information, it would leave every journalist at constant risk of surveillance and prosecution.

In the past, government officials have distinguished between those who leak or steal classified information and those who cover it. The person responsible for stealing the information in this case was not only punished but punished severely. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 – the longest sentence for a leak case in American history – but former President Barack Obama commuted most of the remainder of her sentence in January 2017. 

Now however, the Trump administration has used the grand jury system to repeatedly jail Manning for refusing to testify against Assange. As soon as one grand jury was disbanded, and Manning released, the justice department simply called another and arrested her again. 

Adding to this raw coercion, US District Judge Anthony Trenga imposed a daily fine of $500 (£395) for every day that she is in custody after 30 days, and $1,000 every day in custody after 60 days. So Manning will be left in jail and bankrupted until she is prepared to testify against Assange.

All of this can be rightfully considered by the UK court in deciding whether Assange will be extradited to the US. For example, in 2002 British hacker Gary McKinnon argued that he would be denied basic protections if extradited to the US. The case went all the way to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2012, his extradition was denied by the home secretary at that time, Theresa May, on the basis that extradition “would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights.”

With the new charges, any extradition decision may have to follow an identification decision of what Assange was doing when he published these stories. If he is a journalist, his case could prove a defining moment for both the UK and the US.

Ironically, Britain has never had as many protections for journalists in a system with Official Secrets laws that give sweeping investigatory and prosecutorial powers to government officials. Yet, it will now be the US that is presented as more hostile to the free press.

Assange has few friends in Washington. The Democrats have been relatively muted in responding to the charges. After presenting Wikileaks as a tool used by Russia to try to help Mr Trump win the presidency, that narrative breaks down if they recognise Assange as a journalist. 

The Republicans have their own narrative of journalists as deep-state co-conspirators. Even mainstream reporters have long kept Assange at arm’s length. For them, he is the symbol of reckless figures emerging in the “new media” of the internet. 

Assange is not the rallying figure advocates for press freedom would choose, but he is the one they have been given. Assange may be the first modern journalist to be prosecuted under this law. However, if successful, he will certainly not be the last.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and BBC legal analyst. He has argued both leading free speech and national security cases in the federal courts.

226 thoughts on “The Assange Case Could Prove The Most Important Press Case In 300 Years”

  1. Tweeted by:

    Kim Dotcom

    Verified account

    @KimDotcom

    US Empire wants to set an example with Wikileaks, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

    They say to whistleblowers and journalists that if you reveal our secrets we will destroy you.

    If you want to know the truth you must defend the truth-tellers. Do something. Now is the time.

    8:15 PM – 29 May 2019

    https://twitter.com/KimDotcom/status/1133934923688030208

    Truth.

  2. Tweeted by:

    Kim Dotcom

    Verified account

    @KimDotcom

    To Norwegian Nobel Committee
    @NobelPrize @NobelPeaceOslo

    After the embarrassing decision to give a Nobel Peace Prize to mass murderer Barack Obama you may want to consider someone who’s truly deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize: Julian Assange

    Retweet if you agree.

    3:23 PM – 31 May 2019

    https://twitter.com/KimDotcom/status/1134586188407365638

  3. U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Julian Assange to Be Freed, Citing “Psychological Torture”

    1. Preliminary transcript:

      https://www.democracynow.org/2019/5/31/seg_1_julian_assange_please_update

      The United Nations special rapporteur on torture is warning that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is suffering from the effects of “psychological torture” due to his ongoing detention and threats of possible extradition to the United States. The U.N. expert, Nils Melzer, also warned that Assange would likely face a “politicized show trial” if he were to be extradited to the United States. Melzer writes, “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time.” Julian Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012 at London’s Belmarsh Prison, after he was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorean Embassy by British police last month. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced it was charging Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange, who had already been charged on one count of hacking a government computer, now faces up to 170 additional years in prison under the new charges—10 years for each count of violating the Espionage Act. Assange was due to appear by video link before a magistrates’ court on Thursday but failed to appear, reportedly due to health problems. We speak with U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer.

      Transcript

      This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

      AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations special rapporteur on torture is warning that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is suffering from the effects of psychological torture due to his ongoing detention and threats of possible extradition to the United States. The U.N. expert, Nils Melzer, also warned Assange would likely face a “politicized show trial” if he were to be extradited to the United States. Melzer writes, quote, “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time.” Melzer spoke to reporters this morning in Geneva, Switzerland.

      NILS MELZER: And our finding was that Mr. Assange shows all the symptoms of a person who has been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. So what we’re speaking about is severe stress and constant stress, a chronic anxiety, severe psychological trauma. The psychiatrists that accompanied my mission said that his state of health is critical, and if he did not get urgent relief, that we would have to expect a rapid deterioration of that state of health, and possibly with irreparable harm.

      AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012 at London’s Belmarsh Prison, after he was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he lived for seven years, by British police last month.

      Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced it was charging Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents were leaked by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. This is the first time a journalist or publisher has been charged under the World War I-era act. Assange, who had already been charged on one count of hacking a government computer, now faces up to 170 additional years in prison in the U.S. under the new charges—10 years for each count of violating the Espionage Act.

      Julian Assange was due to appear by video link before a magistrates’ court on Thursday but failed to appear, reportedly due to health problems. Assange’s attorney Jennifer Robinson appeared on Democracy Now! last week and spoke about his deteriorating health.

      JENNIFER ROBINSON: I am very concerned about the ongoing health issues that he has and whether he’s getting adequate medical treatment here within the British prison system. He’s finding it very difficult. He’s very isolated. And I think the prospect of a very long extradition fight and potential extradition to the United States is a real concern. But, of course, he is resolved to fight this, as he said at his first extradition hearing. He refused to consent to extradition to the United States, because he would not be extradited for doing journalism. And this case raises—as we’ve seen from the free speech groups that have come out overnight, this case raises fundamental questions of free speech, which is why he is resolved to absolutely fighting this extradition.

      AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Geneva, Switzerland, where we’re joined by Nils Melzer, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture.

      Welcome to Democracy Now! Why don’t you begin by telling us the results of your report and describing your visit to see Julian Assange at the Belmarsh Prison in London?

      NILS MELZER: Thank you, Amy. Well, I did visit Mr. Assange in prison, Belmarsh Prison, on the 9th of May in the company of two medical experts. And my primary concerns really are that I’m extremely worried about his current state of health, which was alarming already when I visited him and which seems to have deteriorated rapidly since then, to the point where he’s no longer even able to stand trial and to participate in court hearings.

      I must say that I’m appalled at the sustained and concerted abuse that this man has been exposed to at the hands of several democratic states over a period of almost a decade. And I’m gravely concerned about the prospects of a possible extradition to the United States. As I have indicated this morning in Geneva, I worry that he would be exposed to a politicized show trial in violation of his human rights.

      AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your role as U.N. special rapporteur on torture. What is the significance of the report you put out? Who pays attention to it? Is it legally binding in any way?

      NILS MELZER: No, my role is that of a rapporteur. I have been mandated by the United Nations to report to all U.N. member states about their compliance with the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. So, I examined this case, and I reported my concerns to the involved governments, which is now primarily the U.K. government but also the Ecuadorean, the United States and the Swedish governments, which have each contributed, in my assessment, to the medical effects that we have observed now.

      AMY GOODMAN: Christine Assange, Julian Assange’s mother, tweeted, “The UK Gov is unlawfully slowly killing my son! They made him very ill by refusing him ANY access to life sustaining fresh air, exercise, sun/VitD or proper medical care for 6 YEARS of illegal Embassy detention (@UN) Then against ALL medical advice threw him into a prison cell.” She tagged the U.N. in her post. Talk about your visit with him. Talk about the time he was in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. He was there for almost seven years, was not able to go outside because the British government said they would arrest him if he did.

      NILS MELZER: Yes. Well, I think it’s very important to say that I went to the prison with two very experienced and specialized medical experts, so experts that are specialized in examining and identifying and documenting symptoms of torture—physical torture or psychological torture. And we ran medical protocols, called the Istanbul Protocol, which are recognized protocols to examine torture victims, to have an objective medical assessment.

      So, Mr. Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for persons that have been exposed to prolonged psychological torture. My assessment is that Mr. Assange has been exposed to various forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that cumulatively have the same effect as psychological torture.

      Now, because Mr. Assange has been confined to a very controlled environment for about seven years, with very little outside influence, it is possible to identify the causal relationship between the medical symptoms and the actual causes of the symptoms with a high degree of certainty. Now, our conclusions are that, first of all, it is the concerted effort of various states to hand him over to the United States which is a bit of the elephant in the room. That’s the one fear he has had since 2010, when he first published large amounts of compromising information about the United States. And soon after, he was then exposed to a relentless campaign of judicial persecution, I’d say, because it is an abuse of the judicial system in order to try to extradite him to the U.S. and get him to be prosecuted for a row of offenses, as we have now seen, under the Espionage Act. I believe that Mr. Assange has a credible case and a credible fear that he would not get a fair trial in the United States, that he would not be safe and protected from the types of detention and treatment that would violate the Convention Against Torture.

      So, he has, in the same time—at the same time, from 2010, then increasingly been exposed to a public campaign of—or, a campaign of public mobbing, I would say, mobbing, vilification and intimidation, ranging from deliberate ridicule to insults and up to, actually, open calls for his assassination and murder, without the governments, the concerned governments, ever interfering and trying to protect him from this type of unacceptable threats.

      Now, all of these elements have contributed, obviously, to a level of stress and anxiety that would be unbearable for anyone. But on top of this, when the new government was elected in Ecuador in 2017, the last government that had actually provided him with refuge and protection turned against him and started to deliberately harass him in order to get him to leave the embassy and/or to trigger a health crisis that would justify his expulsion to a British hospital, and therefore to British jurisdiction. So all these elements have resulted in a medical picture and symptoms that are tantamount to what psychological torture would produce over a prolonged period.

      AMY GOODMAN: The British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has responded to your report by saying, quote, “This is wrong. Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgments without his interference or inflammatory accusations.” Nils Melzer, your response?

      NILS MELZER: Well, I—actually, I have responded to him. And I said that, “With all due respect, sir, but Mr. Assange was about as free to leave as someone who is sitting on a rubber boat in a shark pool.”

      I believe it is important to see that the Swedish prosecution, the Ecuadorean authorities and also the U.K. judicial authorities so far have not shown the impartiality and objectivity that is required under the rule of law. He has been expelled from the Ecuadorean Embassy without any due process of law, and we’re talking about the formal lifting of an asylum status and the suspension of his nationality citizenship, which normally would not be done, obviously, by a president on a unilateral decision, but this would be a court proceeding where the defendant or the concerned person would have a right to defend himself.

      The way the Swedish prosecution has been conducted also shows that Mr. Assange was not given the opportunity to defend himself properly in public against allegations of sexual offense without at the same time having to expose himself to a possible extradition to the United States, which obviously is not related to the sexual offenses. But he was not given the opportunity to do so. So, for 10 years, his reputation and credibility and his human dignity have been gravely affected by these allegations, and the Swedish prosecution deliberately prevented him from actually taking an official position against that.

      Now, in the U.K. courts, we have seen a similar type of bias. The same day he was dragged out of the embassy after more than six years, on the same day, he was pulled into a U.K. court. He was given, reportedly, less than 15 minutes with his defense lawyer to prepare a defense, and then, in a very short hearing, was convicted for bail violation. And the judge even insulted him as being a narcissist who cannot get beyond himself. Now, as a lawyer, having worked at court myself, I cannot imagine how a judge could come to such a conclusion, when the defendant didn’t say anything else in that hearing than “I plead not guilty.”

      So, I believe we have to take a step back and look at all these proceedings, how they have been conducted, and come to our own conclusions whether these are fair. We also have to take a step back and look at this whole narrative of suspected rapist; narcissist; selfish, ungrateful person; hacker, and scratch the surface a little bit and see what’s below there. When I was first approached by his defense team to—seeking protection from my mandate in December last year, I was reluctant to do so, because, me, too, I had been affected by this prejudice that I had absorbed through all these public, you know, narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case. So I encourage everybody to really look below the surface in this case.

      AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Nils Melzer, what Julian Assange would face in this country, in the United States, if he were extradited here, a country that has the death penalty? Talk about the trial, what you see—you’ve talked about the elephant in the room.

      NILS MELZER: Yes, I’m gravely, gravely concerned. I’m almost, you know, certain that he would not get a safe—a fair trial and a safe treatment in the United States. The public prejudice, including on the part of former and current officials in the United States, has been so predominant for several years now, and so that it would be almost impossible to have an impartial court hearing where he could actually be heard of his concerns. When we see the charges that have been added now, recently, under the Espionage Act, most of them really relate to activities that any investigative journalist is conducting every day. So, it’s really a reason for concern for press freedom around the world.

      Then, we are also, with the United States, unfortunately, dealing with a country that in the last 20 years has not shown to be consistent in enforcing the prohibition of torture with its own officials. We can speak to the Senate committee report that has not led to a single prosecution, contrary to their obligations under the Convention Against Torture. Obviously, the “Collateral Murder” video has not led to any prosecutions, either. The only person that is being prosecuted here seems to be the one that actually exposed all of these crimes. And so, in this type of context, it is almost not conceivable that a person like Mr. Assange could ever be acquitted and ever get a fair court trial.

      AMY GOODMAN: And any kind of guarantee that he would not receive the death penalty?

      NILS MELZER: Well, I would expect the United States to respect its own assurances. But, you know, the death penalty is one concern. But, on the other hand, if someone gets sentenced to basically life without parole or 170 or 180 years in prison, which would be equivalent to that, for having conducted investigative journalism, then that really would amount, in itself, to a cruel and unusual punishment. I would say that would be in violation of international law, but also of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

      AMY GOODMAN: And finally, what are you calling for, Nils Melzer?

      NILS MELZER: Well, I think, first of all, the four countries that I appealed to, that I’ve written formal letters to, should recognize that the way they handled this affair violated the Convention Against Torture, that they have to stop in their tracks, they have to really investigate the circumstances that led to this situation, and then also, obviously, take measures for remedy.

      If Mr. Assange really has committed a criminal offense, obviously he will have to respond for that. But then he has to be given the chance to develop a defense, have sufficient contact with his lawyers and receive the guarantees that his human rights are really protected. He cannot be tried in an environment that is severely prejudiced and shows only bias against him.

      My personal recommendation would simply be to release him, because he has already suffered enough. But, as a lawyer, I can acknowledge that there may be a formal requirement to conduct certain proceedings. But it is extremely important that his human rights are now being respected, that there is an independent observation of how these trials are being conducted, and especially that his medical state of health be stabilized and he’s given sufficient time to recover, to regain strength, to be able to face whatever he has to face.

      AMY GOODMAN: And again, those four countries, United States, Britain, Ecuador and Sweden, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer has accused them of “collective persecution.” Nils Melzer, I want to thank you very much for being with us, U.N. special rapporteur or torture, human rights chair of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, professor of international law at University of Glasgow and author of several books on international law.

  4. I find it curious that following the publication of Manning’s information in 2010, Julian Assange has been physically isolated through the actions of three American allies, first as a virtual prisoner in the Ecuadoran embassy, and now in a British jail, after originally being investigated and charged with a questionable sex crime by Sweden that Sweden has since dropped. Now, Bill Barr wants him, apparently very badly.

    Why did the Obama administration want Assange isolated then, and why does Bill Barr want him extradited to the USA now? Perhaps it is not to do with Manning’s information, but instead with the Hillary Clinton emails. Perhaps Assange has been holding back some explosive information in that regard that is reason enough for Bill Barr to secure him in the USA for Barr’s investigation of the Obama/Clinton deep state. Perhaps it is also enough for the Obama/Clinton deep state to want Julian Assange dead in the U.K., as he is now reported by his attorney to nearly be.

    The specious criminal charges brought against Assange don’t pass the sniff test, as Prof. Turley suggests. For that reason, they will probably drop out eventually in the course of prosecution. There seems to be something else at play, and the obvious answer to me is Bill Barr vs. his escalating investigation of the Obama/Clinton deep state. Perhaps he who controls Assange controls the investigation. And the 2020 election.

  5. Nils Melzer
    @NilsMelzer
    UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; Human Rights Chair, Geneva Academy; Professor of International Law, University of Glasgow

    https://twitter.com/NilsMelzer/status/1134443913488588800

    For the record: I never said I considered #JulianAssange „a bad actor“ but that, initially, I had been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else, and only saw the real facts once I investigated in detail @isaacstanbecker @wapo

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/un-official-says-assange-is-a-victim-ofpsychological-torture-warns-against-extradition-to-the-us/2019/05/31/cca722e0-5f84-11e9-bf24-db4b9fb62aa2_story.html

    “There’s no chance he’ll get a fair trial in the U.S.,” Melzer said. “That’s where I draw the line.”

  6. As Jill indicated this morning, Assange would appear to be quite ill.

    Julian Assange moved to prison health ward as WikiLeaks reveal they have ‘grave concerns’ about his well-being

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/05/29/julian-assange-moved-prison-health-ward-wikileaks-reveal-have/

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been moved to the heath ward of Belmarsh prison.

    Last night the company released a statement confirming the move, adding that they have “grave concerns” over the state of his health.

    At the start of this month Mr Assange was jailed for 50 weeks for skipping bail in 2012.

    The statement last night read: “Mr Assange’s heath had already significantly deteriorated after seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy, under conditions that were incompatible with basic human rights.”

    Adding: “During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight. The decision of prison authorities to move him to the health ward speaks for itself.”

    The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.

  7. From the following linked article:

    The leaked information revealed details about the secret legal system used by the Obama administration to create lists of people to kill, including American citizens who had not been formally charged with crimes.

    The information also revealed that the drone program is dangerously inaccurate, killing the wrong target as often as 90 percent of the time.

    This information is clearly of substantive value to the public. The American people have a right to know who is being killed by its government and how the government makes such decisions.

    The press must take up the cause of the brave men and women who leak vital information to them. Whistleblowers like Mr. Hale, Ms. Winner, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and more must be defended, just as those who publish that information — a list that includes everyone from the New York Times to Julian Assange — must be defended.

    ___________

    Amend the Espionage Act

    THE EDITORIAL BOARD
    MAY 21, 2019 11:00 PM

    https://www.toledoblade.com/opinion/editorials/2019/05/22/amend-the-united-states-espionage-act-public-interest-whistleblower/stories/20190522024

    It has been almost 102 years since the Espionage Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. Initially conceived as a means by which to “punish acts of interference with the foreign relations,” the Act has since become a tool of suppression, used to punish whistleblowers who expose governmental wrongdoing and criminality. It is time that the law be amended to accommodate those who share information vital to the public interest.

    Daniel Everette Hale, a 31-year-old former intelligence analyst, become the latest target of the weaponized Espionage Act with his arrest last week. Mr. Hale is accused of leaking classified documents between 2013 and 2015 regarding the Obama administration’s drone program.

    The leaked information revealed details about the secret legal system used by the Obama administration to create lists of people to kill, including American citizens who had not been formally charged with crimes.

    The information also revealed that the drone program is dangerously inaccurate, killing the wrong target as often as 90 percent of the time.

    This information is clearly of substantive value to the public. The American people have a right to know who is being killed by its government and how the government makes such decisions.

    Transparency ensures due process and ethical decision-making.

    But Mr. Hale has been charged under the Espionage Act and, as a result, will be denied the right to make a “public interest defense.”

    Sadly, Mr. Hale’s situation is not unique. He is the fourth individual to be charged by the Trump Administration under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information to journalists.

    Terry Albury of the FBI and Reality Winner of the National Security Agency are already serving prison sentences for their actions, while Joshua Schulte of the CIA has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. Only the Obama administration prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act — eight people.

    While many people are, justly or unjustly, angered by the hostile rhetoric that has been directed toward the press in recent years, the prosecutions of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act are a much more nefarious and dangerous abridgment of First Amendment freedoms in this country.

    Five years ago, Daniel Ellsberg, who was charged — but not convicted — under the Espionage Act in 1973 for leaking the Pentagon Papers, argued that “the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing.”

    Since that time, the situation has grown more dire as the government becomes more emboldened to punish those who leak information to the press.

    Obama administration’s decision to use the Espionage Act to vigorously prosecute whistleblowers has created a dangerous precedent.

    It must be stopped now.

    The press must take up the cause of the brave men and women who leak vital information to them. Whistleblowers like Mr. Hale, Ms. Winner, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and more must be defended, just as those who publish that information — a list that includes everyone from the New York Times to Julian Assange — must be defended.

    The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has never addressed the constitutionality of using the Espionage Act to punish those who leak information to the American press. Some legal scholars have argued that this application violates the First Amendment.

    The U.S. Supreme Court should settle the question.

    And Congress could put all this to rest by amending the Espionage Act to allow public interest defenses, a revision that would immediately improve government transparency and positively benefit the American people.

    But whatever happens, this issue can no longer be on the sidelines. The consequences of this debate will have a tremendous impact upon free expression, the freedom to publish vital information, and the right to know what our government is doing in our name, good or bad.

    We cannot afford to remain silent on this issue.

    Silence is complicity, and America’s whistleblowers deserve better.

  8. Julian Assange writes a letter from Belmarsh prison

    (Published by The Canary, dated 13 May 2019, to independent journalist Gordon Dimmack)

    Thanks Gordon. You are a good man.

    I have been isolated from all ability to prepare to defend myself: no laptop, no internet, ever, no computer, no library, so far, but even if I get access it will be just for half an hour, with everyone else, once a week. Just two visits a month and it takes weeks to get someone on the call list and a Catch-22 in getting their details to be security screened. Then all calls except lawyers, are recorded and calls are max 10 minutes and in a limited 30-min window each day in which all prisoners compete for the phone. And credit? Just a few pounds a week and no one can call in.

    The other side? A superpower that has been preparing for 9 years with hundreds of people and untold millions spent on the case. I am defenseless and am counting on you and others of good character to save my life.

    I am unbroken, albeit literally surrounded by murderers, but the days when I could read and speak and organize to defend myself, my ideals, and my people are over until I am free! Everyone else must take my place.

    The US government, or rather, those regrettable elements in it that hate truth liberty and justice, want to cheat their way into my extradition and death, rather than letting the public hear the truth, for which I have won the highest awards in journalism and have been nominated 7 times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Truth, ultimately, is all we have.

    J.P.A.

    https://defend.wikileaks.org/2019/05/26/julian-assange-writes-a-letter-from-belmarsh-prison/#write-julian

    1. “Julian Assange writes a letter from Belmarsh prison… I have been isolated from all ability to prepare to defend myself: no laptop, no internet… The other side? A superpower…”

      A possible letter to an unknown woman who was the mother of an unknown American agent posted in a dangerous place whose job it was to keep the rest of us along with our allies safe. ‘Dear Mrs. Smith, I knew your son and he was a loyal friend… somehow information leaked that got him killed just before his 22nd birthday… I am so sorry for your loss and my loss of a good friend. …’

      1. Total BS, but you like the sound of your own voice whether what’s uttered is correct or not.

        The world is a dangerous place. How many people have died in our wars? How many lives are destroyed?

        1. Anonymous, you like to talk about the sound of my voice but you hide your own voice behind the skirts of others calling themselves anonymous. That is how much you value your own voice so I have to assume you are complementing me.

          1. Allen’s first lesson of the day: complement vs. compliment

            Was I “complementing” you??

            Nope. And I wasn’t complimenting you either. You big dope.

            1. I was actually doing a comparison, but perhaps you believe your own voice sucks. Under those circumstances it wouldn’t be a compliment at all. You are right. Your voice and the voice of your alter ego, Diane, are voices that should not be heard outside of a zoo or farm since both of those voices contain the sounds one associates with those residing in an insane assylum.

              So sorry your fired brain couldn’t stay on the subject matter. ECT might have a relationship to the frying of your brain. Maybe they got tired of hearing your squealing and put the voltage up.

              1. As Allan becomes more desperate, he ramps up the absurd insults.

                That he spends his life here is not a surprise.

                1. Anonymous, you are always so concerned with my lifestyle. I thank you for that but don’t worry most of the work I am doing this year and last is on the computer so you are merely a passing distraction that works its way on the margins. That is what you should really worry about… the fact that you are a passing distraction, totally superficial without much worth.

                    1. Anonymous, your arguments have deteriorated from shallow to non existent. You have fired your load and they were all blanks. Time for you to retire back to the elementary school playground where you can fight with the 6 year olds.

          1. “Bradley Manning leak did not result in deaths by enemy forces”

            Anonymous, that is a conclusion not a fact. You will have various opinions on the subject, but you don’t recognize the complexity of the issue so you provide shallow arguments which once again doesn’t leave room for intelligent discussion.

              1. Anonymous, more shallowness on your part. I only have to show enough proof to convict in a court of law. If Manning violates the law and that is proven he goes to jail. It was proven and he went to jail. Sometimes an illegal act can cause a death but without legal proof one cannot charge that person with killing another. That is why he wasn’t convicted of the death of another even if that might have occurred from his actions.

                You seem to be over your head. Why don’t you join the debate team at your local elementary school.

                1. (Allan isn’t a lawyer, he just plays one on this blog…)

                  Insulting his opponents is his M.O.

                  1. Anonymous, along with being shallow you draw conclusions without foundation. I never claimed to be a lawyer but that doesn’t tell you much of anything except that you cannot be relied on for factual data.

                    Making you look stupid doesn’t rely on another’s comments. All one has to do is look at your comments.

        2. Anonymous, your message seems to deny the possibility that Assange’s releases of information didn’t cause harm to anyone much less their deaths. You know this? How?

          That is your problem. You speak without understanding the possible unintended consequences of Assange’s actions. Such shallow thinking doesn’t leave room for intelligent discussion.

          1. I understand the consequences perfectly well.

            Show us evidence of harm. Work on that today.

            The shallow thinker and person is you, Allan. It must be hard living in your head.

            1. Anonymous, one of the reasons for secrecy is to protect our agents in the field. You are the one that has to prove that violating such secrecy will not cause the loss of American life. You can’t. All you can do is provide shallow arguments that add litle to a discussion.

                1. Anonymous, you are repeating yourself so I will repeat my answer:

                  “Anonymous, one of the reasons for secrecy is to protect our agents in the field. You are the one that has to prove that violating such secrecy will not cause the loss of American life. You can’t. All you can do is provide shallow arguments that add litle to a discussion.”

                    1. I don’t have to prove anything because Manning was already found guilty based on the proof available. You are the one saying that no deaths occurred because of… I am saying we don’t have legal proof of deaths occurring but that doesn’t alter the fact that such illegal release of such documents can and may have caused deaths in the field.

                      Learn some logic. Ask a 6th grader for help.

        1. Many things have been said about Assange that aren’t true and many things have been said that are true. So what? How does that information prove that Assange’s release was good or bad? Anonymous, you involve yourself more in personalities than in the action those personalities are involved in.That too is quite shallow and doesn’t leave room for intelligent discussion.

  9. i agree with Turley and I think this was a bad move by AG Barr. The first charge seemed legit, the second one is troubling.

    1. Kurtz, if I were Barr I think I would have included every possible charge which is what he seems to have done. I am not familiar with extradition law but my assumption is that we wouldn’t want to add any charges to the list after Assange is extradited. That might cause problems with our ally. Therefore, list every conceivable charge that would permit extradition and when Assange arrives here there would be maneuverability in case new information is found. I would think charges could be dropped but not added.

    2. About that “hacking” charge, this is what Glenn Greenwald said in the Washington Post today:

      “The Trump administration’s first indictment of Assange, filed last month, sought to circumvent this dilemma by masquerading as a narrowly crafted instrument that offered Assange’s adversaries an easy way to cheer the charges without being perceived as supportive of threats to journalistic freedom. That indictment pretended it was prosecuting Assange for allegedly helping Manning hack into government databases to steal secret material.

      “But even that first indictment was clearly a ruse. It did not allege that Assange attempted to help Manning “hack” into government databases to steal documents. It only alleged that he did that so to help her avoid getting caught, which is not merely a right but a duty of journalists when dealing with sources who are taking great risks to show the public what their governments and powerful corporations are doing.”

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/05/28/indictment-assange-is-blueprint-making-journalists-into-felons/

  10. BISHOP ROBERT BARRON ON CALIFORNIA’S ATTACK ON CONFESSION

    SB 360, a piece of proposed legislation currently making its way through the California state senate, should alarm not only every Catholic in the country, but indeed the adepts of any religion. In California, as in almost every other state, clergy members (along with a variety of other professionals, including physicians, social workers, teachers, and therapists) are mandated reporters—which is to say, they are legally required to report any case of suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement. However, California clergy who come by this knowledge in the context of “penitential communication” are currently exempted from the requirement. SB 360 would remove the exemption.

Leave a Reply to Mr Kurtz Cancel reply