UPDATE: In our most recent article in the "Assange Watch Series, we go "Beyond the Headlines" to bring you a Constitutional analysis of this situation.
The WikiLeaks Assange conundrum. We love him, we hate him, but what do we do with him? What will it mean for law and societal order? This is part of our "Beyond the Headlines" series. To read more in-depth stories like this click here!
The Short History
It has been six years since Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, fled to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to seek asylum from possible extradition to the United States to face indictment under the US Espionage Act.
At the time, Assange, an Australian national, was wanted by Sweden for questioning over sexual offense allegations. Assange had also broken the terms of his UK bail. Since then, he has become even more controversial, having published US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails and internal emails from Democratic Party officials.
The US grand jury investigation of Assange under the Espionage Act was apparently based on his publishing the leaks for which Chelsea Manning, a former US army soldier, was convicted. Her sentence was commuted by Obama after 7 years in prison.
Assange has agreed to surrender himself to the British police – but only if he were granted assurances against extradition to the US, where he could face life in prison. He also offered to appear in Sweden, if Sweden would offer similar assurances.
The Deeper History: Who Is Julian Assange?
Personal Life of Julian Assange
Julian Paul Hawkins was born on 3 July 1971 in Townsville, Queensland, to an anti-war activist and builder, but his parents separated prior to his birth.
When Julian Hawkins was a year old, his mother married Richard Brett Assange, an actor, with whom she ran a small theatre company and whom Assange regards as his father (choosing Assange as his surname). His Childhood home was destroyed by fire.
His mother and Step-father divorced about 1979. Christine Assange then became involved with Leif Meynell, also known as Leif Hamilton, a member of an Australian cult.
Assange had a nomadic childhood, and had lived in over thirty Australian towns by the time he reached his mid-teens, when he settled with his mother and half-brother in Melbourne, Victoria.
He studied programming, mathematics, and physics at Central Queensland University (1994) and the University of Melbourne (2003–2006), but did not complete a degree.
While in his teens, Assange married a woman named Teresa, and in 1989 they had a son, Daniel Assange, now a software designer. The couple separated and initially disputed custody of their child. Assange was Daniel's primary caregiver for much of his childhood.
Assange has other children; in an open letter to French President François Hollande, he stated that his youngest child lives in France with his mother. He also said that his family had faced death threats and harassment because of his work, forcing them to change identities and reduce contact with him.
In 1987, Assange began hacking under the name Mendax. He and two others—known as "Trax" and "Prime Suspect"—formed a hacking group they called the International Subversives. He is thought to have been involved in the WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers) hack at NASA in 1989, but he does not acknowledge this.
In September 1991, Assange was discovered hacking into the Melbourne master terminal of Nortel, a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation. The Australian Federal Police tapped Assange's phone line (he was using a modem), raided his home at the end of October, and eventually charged him in 1994 with thirty-one counts of hacking and related crimes.
In December 1996, he pleaded guilty to twenty-five charges (the other six were dropped), and was ordered to pay reparations of A$2,100 and released on a good behavior bond. The perceived absence of malicious or mercenary intent and his disrupted childhood were cited to justify his lenient penalty.
Assange stated that he registered the domain leaks.org in 1999, but "didn't do anything with it". He did, however, publicize a patent granted to the National Security Agency in August 1999, for voice-data harvesting technology: "This patent should worry people." This gives the NSA the ability to tap everyone's phone calls, "transcribed and archived in the bowels of an unaccountable foreign spy agency," he said.
Systematic abuse of technology by governments against fundamental freedoms of world citizens remained an abiding concern—more than a decade later, in the introduction to Cypherpunks (2012), Assange summarized: "the Internet, our greatest tool for emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen".
Assange and The Love/Hate Relationship
After his period of study at the University of Melbourne, Assange and others established WikiLeaks in 2006. Assange is a member of the organization's advisory board and describes himself as the editor-in-chief.
WikiLeaks has published secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources. By 2015, WikiLeaks had published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses, and was described by Assange as "a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents".
The published material between 2006 and 2009 attracted various degrees of publicity, but it was only after it began publishing documents supplied by Chelsea Manning, that WikiLeaks became a household name.
The Manning material included the Collateral Murder video (April 2010) which showed United States soldiers fatally shooting 18 people from a helicopter in Iraq, the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), a quarter of a million diplomatic cables (November 2010), and the Guantánamo files (April 2011).
Opinions of Assange at this time were divided. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described his activities as "illegal," but the police said that he had broken no Australian law.
United States Vice President Joe Biden and others called him a "terrorist". Some called for his assassination or execution.
Support came from people including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (then a backbench MP), Spain's Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Argentina's ambassador to the UK Alicia Castro, and activists and celebrities including; Tariq Ali, John Perry Barlow, Daniel Ellsberg, Mary Kostakidis, John Pilger, Ai Weiwei, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Vaughan Smith, and Oliver Stone.
Public Approval and Releases
The year 2010 culminated with the Sam Adams Award, which Assange accepted in October, and a string of distinctions in December—the Le Monde readers' choice award for person of the year, the Time readers' choice award for person of the year (he was also a runner-up in Time's overall person of the year award), a deal for his autobiography worth at least US$1.3 million, and selection by the Italian edition of Rolling Stone as "rockstar of the year".
Assange announced that he would run for the Australian Senate in March 2012 under the new WikiLeaks Party, and Cypherpunks was published in November.
In 2012, Assange hosted a television show on RT (formerly known as Russia Today), a network funded by the Russian government. In the same year, he analyzed the Kissinger cables held at the US National Archives and released them in searchable form. On 15 September 2014, he appeared via remote video link on Kim Dotcom's Moment of Truth town hall meeting held in Auckland.
The following February, he won the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal for Peace with Justice, previously awarded to only three people—Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Buddhist spiritual leader Daisaku Ikeda.
He was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in June, having earlier won the Amnesty International UK Media Award (New Media) in 2009.
United States Criminal Investigation
On 16 October 2011, after WikiLeaks released the Manning material, the Obama administration began investigating WikiLeaks and Assange personally with a view to prosecute them under the Espionage Act of 1917.
In November 2010, US Attorney-General Eric Holder said there was "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into WikiLeaks. It emerged from legal documents leaked over the ensuing months that Assange and others were being investigated by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia.
An email from an employee of intelligence consultancy Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) leaked in 2012 said, "We have a sealed indictment on Assange." The US government denied the existence of such an indictment.
In December 2011 prosecutors in the Chelsea Manning case revealed the existence of chat logs between Manning and an alleged WikiLeaks interlocutor they claimed to be Assange; he denied this, dismissing the alleged connection as "absolute nonsense".
The logs were presented as evidence during Manning's court-martial in June–July 2013. The prosecution argued that they showed WikiLeaks helped Manning reverse-engineer a password, but evidence that the interlocutor was Assange was circumstantial, and Manning insisted she (he at the time) acted alone.
Assange was being examined separately by "several government agencies" in addition to the grand jury, most notably the FBI. Court documents published in May 2014 suggest that Assange was still under "active and ongoing" investigation at that time.
Moreover, some Snowden documents published in 2014 show that the United States government put Assange on the "2010 Manhunting Timeline", and in the same period they urged their allies to open criminal investigations into the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
In the same documents there was a proposal by the National Security Agency (NSA) to designate WikiLeaks as a "malicious foreign actor", thus increasing the surveillance against it.
On 26 January 2015, WikiLeaks reported that three members of the organization had received notice from Google that Google had complied, with a federal warrant by a US District Court, to turn over their emails and metadata on 5 April 2012.
At the time, Google had been prohibited by the court's order from disclosing the existence of the warrant, but a subsequent order by the court gave Google permission to notify WikiLeaks regarding the warrant's existence and that Google had complied with the order.
The warrants cited 18 USC 371, 641, 793(d), 793(g), and 1030, which include espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, theft or conversion of property belonging to the United States government, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and general conspiracy.
According to the statement by WikiLeaks, the alleged offenses could add up to a total of 45 years of imprisonment each for Assange and other WikiLeaks staff.
In a December 15, 2015 court submission, the United States confirmed its "sensitive, ongoing law enforcement proceeding into the Wikileaks matter."
Since Trump Took Office
On April 13, 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks "a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia."
On April 20, 2017, US officials told CNN that they were preparing to file formal charges against Assange.
United States prosecutors accidentally revealed the existence of criminal charges against Assange in an unrelated ongoing sex crime case in the Eastern District of Virginia.
In early 2019, individuals began to come forward with news of being questioned about Assange by prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia. Legal scholar Stephen Vladeck stated that the prosecutors, after refusing to unseal the indictment, accelerated the case in 2019 due to the impending statute of limitations on Assange's largest leaks.
Witnesses named in the investigation included Jacob Appelbaum, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, David House, Jason Katz and Chelsea Manning, all of whom condemned it as a form of government overreach.
The House eventually revealed that he had testified in July 2018 while Manning was held in contempt and jailed on 8 March 2019.
Swedish Rape Charges
Assange was wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities following a visit he made there in 2010. The charges involved multiple counts of rape and other lesser charges.
Assange denied this, and agreed to be questioned in London. The interview finally took place, but Swedish officials finally dropped any charges and outstanding warrants. Though prosecutors said it was not a determination of guilt and that the cases could be reopened if he ever returned to Sweden.
Who Is Chelsea Manning?
Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987) is an American Democrat activist and self-proclaimed "whistleblower". Some would use the term "leaker" as he was found guilty of leaking classified information. The term "whistle-blower" should be reserved for those who actually use the "Whistle-blower" process as covered by U.S. law. He, now wishes to be called "she".
She is a formerly a he, and United States Army soldier, who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents.
She was imprisoned between 2010 and 2017 (Sentence commuted by Obama), and again in 2019 where she remains incarcerated for refusing to testify to a grand jury against Julian Assange.
Assigned in 2009 to an Army unit in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to classified databases. In early 2010, she (then "he") leaked classified information to WikiLeaks and confided this to Adrian Lamo, an online acquaintance. Lamo indirectly informed the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, and Manning was arrested in May that same year.
The material included videos of the July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike, and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables; and 482,832 Army reports that came to be known as the "Iraq War Logs" and "Afghan War Diary". The material was published by WikiLeaks and its media partners between April 2010 and April 2011.
Manning was charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which was the most serious charge and could have resulted in a death sentence.
She pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the charges. The trial on the remaining charges began on June 3, 2013, and on July 30 she was convicted of 17 of the original charges and amended versions of four others, but was acquitted of aiding the enemy.
She was sentenced to 35 years at the maximum-security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence to nearly seven years of confinement dating from her arrest on May 27, 2010
In 2019, Manning was jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. The judge held Manning in contempt of court. Manning said she refuses to testify because she objects to the secrecy of the grand jury process, and already revealed everything she knows at her court martial. The judge said she will remain jailed until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work.
Back To The Present
It's been six years since Assange fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid arrest warrants issued regarding the case in the United States. He is free to leave, but doing so would surely result in his apprehension by UK authorities. Some say this is a sentence in itself.
Chelsea Manning continues to be imprisoned for refusing to testify to the Grand Jury regarding the Assange case in the U.S.
The "Assange Watch" activity has picked up in recent weeks, presumably promoted by the idea that the United State will apply full pressure to get him turned over before the statue of limitations expires on his larger charges.
See below for more articles on recent events regarding Assange.
Assange Update: N996GA (S56) has confirmed a possible earlier departure of Sunday 21:00 GMT. It was previously scheduled to leave Monday evening.
So What Do We Do With WikiLeaks Julian Assange?
We love him, we hate him, but what do we do with him? If you've read everything this far, then you realize that there is wide-ranging opinions and support from all sorts of different places, including from conservatives.
Liberals have long loved Assange for his "anti-war" stance, and exposing the dark side of U.S. Military operations/wars abroad. You can see from the early life of Assange, that his anti-war mentality is deep-seeded. This is one reason, at least, why the United States government hates him.
But then, he releases the Hillary Clinton emails which totally confused those on the left, and created quite the uproar. Suddenly, some conservatives love him.
The left basically just wants whatever Trump doesn't. But some of their current arguments are based on "human rights" issues, citing the "horrible conditions" that exist in U.S. prisons, like cable tv, I guess.
In this most recent Bloomberg article, opinion author,Leonid Bershidsky, is trying to make the case that the European courts should decide "whether he's treated as a spy or an investigative journalist".
But, this is the wrong argument. Who regulates who's an investigative journalist? Is there some license to do this where you are afforded more "power" than any other normal citizen? NO, there isn't. We are all investigative journalists, if we want to be.
We always talk about getting to one's motivations in order to understand the situation. The same applies here and why I included so much of the personal history of WikiLeaks Julian Assange. We'll get to that in the following sub-headings.
His personal history indicates clearly that he is anti-war. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, but in activism, can subvert operations and provide key intelligence to our enemies. We can argue about whether we should be conducting a war or "military operation" or not, but once it's ongoing, we should all be behind getting the job done and getting out. Subverting operations puts the lives of American soldiers at risk.
On the other hand, if information is discovered that the intelligence generated to convince Congress and the American public to prosecute that war was false; that's something we want to know.
We currently have "Whistle-blower" laws that cover such classified disclosers along with processes for doing so. There's a difference between an "Leaker" and a "Whistle-blower". WikiLeaks does not attempt to engage in the use of these processes.
You might call him a "rebel", a "maverick" or a number of other different adjectives, but it's clear that Julian is "anti-government".
He weasels around various laws of different countries to try to accomplish what he wants, and to avoid prosecution from these different countries for the laws he breaks.
We all have a little "rebel" in us, and we like it. Our founders were all "rebels", so what's the difference with Assange?
The Conservative Perspective
It's really not worth mentioning the "liberal perspective". For most, the prosecution of Assange was a non-factor when Obama started it, but now that Trump has continued to pursue it, well, the "leftist perspective" is just against "whatever" Trump wants. So, like I said, really not worth pursuing as their is no intelligence behind it.
There's many question among conservatives however. Some of them are below.
- Exposing the Deep State
- Government secrets have gone too far
- Eroding our freedoms
- Government propaganda
- If Julian is exposing the "Truth" then he must be proven wrong otherwise freedom and democracy are at stake.
These are some of the questions or comments that I have received from conservatives regarding Assange. Good natured and well intended for sure. Given the current climate of an attempted coup against a sitting President of the United States; also reasonable.
I could go through these points one-by-one, but it would be mostly repetitive. President Trump ran on a platform of "Draining the Swamp" and bringing those wrong-doers to justice. So far, he's been handcuffed, but the recent Vindication by the Mueller investigation has now given new life for Trump to pursue this goal.
I would recommend patience here as Trump is just now getting the opportunity to pursue this goal. But, most of these issue have to do with "Draining the Swamp" for conservatives. We are willing, in many cases, to shut our eyes and accept, "by whatever means necessary". Personally, I want it done to! I would likely shut my eyes as well. I just think it's that important.
But, as a writer, always striving to bring you the truth from a conservative perspective, that abides by the rule-of-law and the Constitution, I must caution my well-intended Conservative fellows.
My personal feelings often come in conflict with the truth that I achieve when writing. It is easy for us to say one thing or another, but through the process of writing , and my desire to bring you the real "truth" regarding anything I write; I often find myself also conflicted with what I "want" and a what "should happen".
As you may have guessed, that is a real set-up right there.
Valuing the Constitution and the Rule of Law
We want results, and we want them now, when it comes to "draining the swamp" and I certainly get that. But, as conservatives who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law, we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we "trump" these specific processes in order to achieve our goals.
The Patriot Act
As Conservatives, we know full well, that answers are never as simple as we'd like. One of the first steps we should be taking, and one most American's should get behind, is repealing the unconstitutional Patriot Act
This was first served up to us right after 9-11, as a way to track terrorists. But few, and at the time this writer included, looked into the details. Over time, this Act has been slowly expanded to cover more and more.
We have seen this Patriot Act abused repeatedly, and most recently used to gather "oppo-research" against a Presidential candidate, and even more severe...to attempt to unseat a sitting President in an attempted coup using the full force and resources of the federal government. To this point, that has failed as President Trump has recently been VINDICATED.
But, this pervasive, nearly unregulated tool of the Deep State remains. No matter what party you support, you should not want the President or the Deep State to have this power. The recent situation should be an eye opener.
I'm not going to get into this much, because it is stated often, but we all know the heart of "Constitutionalism" is to focus close to home. Get involved with what happens in your own, often, overlooked backyard and effect change!
Conservatives Are NOT Anti-Government
Even if our current government was so corrupt an beyond repair, that it needed to be physically removed and replaced....we would replace it.
Conservatives are not anarchists. Assange is anti-government, and at least mildly Anarchist. Though, I have not seen specific responses to this from Assange, I believe that his long personal history and decades of actions shows this.
No matter what, conservatives believe in law and order, in processes that must govern, though with specific limitations. We certainly want those in our government who have engaged in criminal activity to be held accountable, and we have processes for that.
The News Media Bias
Being that they are leftist, as I stated above, there's no much real reason to dive into the leftist ideology here, but the media has taken a specific approach that you should know about.
Th left says that that an attack on Julian Assange is an attack on ALL media and "free speech".
If WikiLeaks; Julian Assange can leak classified information, then so can I. So can you. So can anyone sitting at a terminal with access to sensitive classified government information.
They are really blurring the lines between everything. While, I expect the press to always support the supposed "rights" of the press, as if they in particular have greater rights than the general public; they don't.
They have no more right to "classified" information than I do, and neither does Julian Assange. To knowingly release "classified information" is a crime, not matter who you are.
Lately, we have seen a lot of it. It has become so much the norm, that people think it is fine for the press to do this, but it's not, and it shouldn't be.
They should all be held accountable for this! It's no wonder that the press is supporting Assange in this way, because many of them maybe facing jail-terms. There's a long held practice, that the media would consult with the government before releasing information that they suspected was "classified" or "sensitive". Of course, in the "Trump Era", this has now been abandoned, and "anything goes".
I certainly believe that the rule of law and order must prevail here, but there are still yet other options that fall under this compliance.
Nullification is part of our legal process. Many people don't understand it. Some don't even know about it, and not many government's on any level are advertising it.
Simply defined as: "the failure or refusal of a U.S. state to aid in enforcement of federal laws within its limits, especially on Constitutional grounds."
But nullification extends to more than just states. It extends to juries as well. A jury can simply say that they don't like the law, and/or the punishment, and refuse to convict him based on that. Judges and prosecutors certainly don't like this, but it's the ultimate authority of the "people".
I'm not saying that this case should be nullified, only that there is always the legal means to do so.
Do Current Whistle-Blower Laws Need to Be Re-worked?
This is a legitimate question that remains outstanding. In the case involving an insider that produced the missing 33 thousand emails that went missing from Hillary's computer....He delivered these emails on multiple hard-drives to the FBI. Read more about this here.
It was buried and no-one did anything. Yes, there were other avenues that he could have used, but it does give one pause and must question, "what happens if those in need of investigating are the ones in the process to receive the evidence against them?"
I'll leave that question open for now, and just let you respond with your thoughts on that! Certainly we must investigate these laws further to ensure other avenues and protections to be able to release information securely and in an proper way.
Options for Trump?
It's interesting that Trump is catching all the heat for an indictment against Julian Assange that happened under the Obama Administration and Eric Holder.
Though, it is what it is. Trump believes in the "rule-of-law" as a guiding principal, so I would not expect him to give up on the "process".
Should Trump Offer Assange a "Deal"?
He does have some options here though. He could have discussions with Julian Assange and determine the depth of the knowledge that he knows. If that depth is sufficient enough to overcome the faults and help to bring a significant number of "deep-state" actors to justice, then the benefit of the "public good" outweighs the crimes committed. Trump could offer a deal.
Possibly, this may be what was happening when the DOJ plane was headed to the UK in a recent report. But, the plane did leave earlier than expected, as reported. It's unclear as to what that may, or may not, mean.
Given the most recent reports coming from Wikileaks and others, it's unlikely that that trip had anything to do with Assange, or that if it did, it didn't end with agreeable terms to those in the DOJ.
If you follow "Q"; even he says that they could only release about 60% of the actual necessary prosecutions to the public, because otherwise the entire government would be brought down, almost entirely; certainly enough to disable the functions of our systems.
Whether you believe "Q", or not, I think the potential for what has been said is real. This needs to be done, but needs to be done with some sense of order if we are preserve what remains of a functioning government. I do believe the corruption runs that deep.
Do we really want to throw ourselves on the alter of anarchy in order to demand results "now", or should we trust in the President we elected to do what we elected him to do, in a reasonable and organized way?
Even if the President choses not to make a deal with WikiLeaks Julian Assange, The legal process must be carried out, though it offers options for Assange, no matter what side of the argument you are on.
Latest News For WikiLeaks Julian Assange
We've been on "Assange Watch" now for a couple of weeks, but things do seem to be intensifying. Multiple undercover police have been stationed out front of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Julian Assange is hold up.
There's been a battle recently between the Ecuadorian government and Assange over a WikiLeaks release concerning corruption by the current leader of Ecuador. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
This then caused the Ecuadorian President to begin looking into options for getting rid of Assange. This was leaked by a member of his staff to WikiLeaks, and has caused more frustrations for the President. The latest is that he has rooted out the leaker and fired them.
The President of Ecuador denies that there is any imminent plan to hand Assange over, though WikiLeaks would dispute that. As the statue of limitations nears expiration for some of the larger crimes Assange is charged with, I would expect that the situation will only intensify.
Assange Update: N996GA (S56) has confirmed a possible earlier departure of Sunday 21:00 GMT. It was previously scheduled to leave Monday evening.
He will either be kicked out and turned over to U.S. officials to face the charges against him, or he will be allowed to remain in the embassy indefinitely. Which will happen is what we are watching.
Good Sources for the "Assange Watch" will be my own Twitter feed @PatriotRCenter (and hashtage #AssangeWatch) (previously @crashsandbar). @wikileaks is also a good page to follow. Additionally, @CassandraRules is there on the ground and tweeting relentlessly every detail as it happens.
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I'm interested in hearing your thoughts too! And, as always, Thank You, for reading an sharing these articles!