Assange is presumed innocent unless and until
proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
Julian Paul Assange was the founder and leader of the WikiLeaks website. The WikiLeaks website publicly solicited submissions of classified, censored, and other restricted information. Assange, who did not possess a security clearance or need to know, was not authorized to receive classified information of the United States.
Raffi Khatchadourian wrote that Julian Assange "has become a global influence, proving that with simple digital tools a single person can craft a new kind of power—a distributed, transnational power, which functions outside norms of state sovereignty that have held for centuries. Encouraged by millions of supporters, Assange has interfered with the world’s largest institutions.... One friend compared him to the central figure in Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” — a recluse trying to reset the course of history."
The European Federation of Journalists shares, together with the International Federation of Journalists, the concerns expressed by the “Speak Up for Assange” campaign, launched on 6 December 2019: “This case stands at the heart of the principle of free speech. If the US government can prosecute Mr Assange for publishing classified documents, it may clear the way for governments to prosecute journalists anywhere, an alarming precedent for freedom of the press worldwide. Also, the use of espionage charges against people publishing materials provided by whistleblowers is a first and should alarm every journalist and publisher. In a democracy, journalists can reveal war crimes and cases of torture and abuse without having to go to jail. It is the very role of the press in a democracy. If governments can use espionage laws against journalists and publishers, they are deprived of their most important and traditional defense – of acting in the public interest – which does not apply under the Espionage Act.”
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer who investigated the case, said: “it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.”
Julian Assange was born on July 3,1971, in Townsville, Australia. During his nomadic childhood and youth, he attended 37 schools. During 1990s he became a computer programmer and software developer, with a talent for hacking. He majored in physics and mathematics from the University of Melbourne. In 2006, Assange set up wikileaks.org to enable whistleblowers to post sensitive documents on the internet without being traced.
Since the early days of WikiLeaks, Assange has spoken at hacking conferences to tout his own history as a “famous teenage hacker in Australia” and to encourage others to hack to obtain information for WikiLeaks. In 2009, for instance, Assange told the Hacking At Random conference that WikiLeaks had obtained nonpublic documents from the Congressional Research Service by exploiting “a small vulnerability” inside the document distribution system of the United States Congress, and then asserted that “[t]his is what any one of you would find if you were actually looking.”
In late 2009, Assange and WikiLeaks actively solicited United States classified information, including by publishing a list of “Most Wanted Leaks” that sought, among other things, classified documents. In 2012, Assange communicated directly with a leader of the hacking group LulzSec (who by then was cooperating with the FBI), and provided a list of targets for LulzSec to hack.
Assange's legal saga began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. He refused to go to Stockholm, saying he feared extradition or illegal rendition to the United States or the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Assange had been detained in absentia since October 18, 2010, on probable cause of suspicion of having sexually molested one woman in Stockholm on August 13-14, 2010, and another on August 18, 2010, and of raping one of the women in Enköping on August 17, 2010. The 45-year-old Australian fled to the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over the investigation of sexual offense allegations. On May 11, 2015, the Swedish Supreme Court affirmed the Appeals Court decision to continue to detain Julian Assange in absentia.
On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the SecretInternet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications, as designated according to Executive Order No. 13526 or its predecessor orders. Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was also using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Army regulations prohibited Manning from attempting to bypass or circumvent security mechanisms on Government-provided information systems and from sharing personal accounts and authenticators, such as passwords.
The portion of the password Manning gave to Assange to crack was stored as a "hash value” in a computer file that was accessible only by users with administrative-level privileges. Manning did not have administrative-level privileges, and used special software, namely a Linux operating system, to access the computer file and obtain the portion of the password provided to Assange. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log onto the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information.
Prior to the formation of the password-cracking agreement, Manning had already provided WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified records that she downloaded fromdepartments and agencies of the United States, including the Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports and Iraq war-related significant activities reports.
At the time he entered into this agreement, Assange knew that Manning was providing WikiLeaks with classified records containing national defense information of the United States. Assange was knowingly receiving such classified records from Manning for the purposeof publicly disclosing them on the WikiLeaks website.
In 2013, Chelsea Manning was convicted by court martial for offenses that involved violations of her military oath to protect and defend the United States. She provided Julian Assange and WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of pages of security information related to national defense. The US Department of Justice indicted Julian Assange for his alleged complicity in Manning’s actions, including his explicit solicitation of classified information and his encouraging Manning to remove classified information from U.S. systems.
Assange was indicted in the U.S. on 18 charges over the publication of classified documents. Prosecutors say he conspired with U.S. army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password and hack into a Pentagon computer and release secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange said the leaked documents exposed U.S. military wrongdoing. Journalism organizations and civil liberties groups including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders say the charges against Assange set a chilling precedent for freedom of the press.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had expressed opposition to candidate Clinton well before the first release of stolen documents in 2016. His strong animosity stemmed in particular from then-Secretary of State Clinton’s fierce condemnation of his role in facilitating “Cablegate” — WikiLeaks’s controversial release of over 250,000 unredacted and previously classified US diplomatic cables in 2010. The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Evidence of Russian government operations began to surface in mid-2016. In June 2016, the Democratic National Committee and its cyber response team publicly announced that Russian hackers had compromised its computer network. Releases of hacked materials—hacks that public reporting soon attributed to the Russian government—began that same month. Additional releases followed in July through the organization WikiLeaks, with further releases in October and November. The disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.
Trump encouraged Russia and WikiLeaks to do more, declaring on July 27, 2016, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” According to the Special Counsel report, “Trump made this request repeatedly, and [Michael] Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.” Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, Unit 26165 officers targeted Clinton’s personal office for the first time.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo in April 2017 denounced WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service” and a threat to U.S. national security. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange's arrest was a priority as the Justice Department steps up efforts to prosecute people who leak classified information to the media.
Despite a Swedish prosecutor announcing in May 2017 that he was no longer the target of an active rape investigation, Assange remained in the embassy for fear of extradition to the United States on charges over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of pages of classified U.S. government documents. WikiLeaks released over 50,000 documents stolen from Podesta’s personal email account. On July 6, 2016, WikiLeaks contacted Guccifer 2.0 through Twitter’s private messaging function, writing “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Guccifer 2.0 persona responded, “ok ... i see.” WikiLeaks also explained, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary . . . so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
Hillary Clinton told an Australian state broadcaster that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was a tool of Russia in his release of hacked emails that hurt the US Democratic presidential nominee's campaign. Clinton told Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview broadcast on 16 October 2017 that the Australian whistleblower had “become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator,” Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He's a tool of Russian intelligence, and if he's such a ... martyr of free speech, why doesn't WikiLeaks ever publish anything coming out of Russia?” she said.
"There was a concerted operation between WikiLeaks and Russia and most likely people in the United States to, as I say, weaponize that information, to make up stories, outlandish, often terrible stories that had no basis in fact, no basis even in the emails themselves, but which were used to denigrate me, my campaign, people who supported me, and to help [Donald] Trump,'' Clinton said. “WikiLeaks is unfortunately now practically a fully owned subsidiary of Russian intelligence,” she said.
Assange, who was holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London, hit back at Clinton's interview, tweeting that she was “not a credible person.” “It is not just her constant lying. It is not just that she throws off menacing glares and seethes thwarted entitlement,” he tweeted. “Watch closely. Something much darker rides along with it. A cold creepiness rarely seen.”
Since Assange moved into the Ecuadorian embassy in London, British authorities had a guard outside the embassy around the clock, at an estimated cost of £10 million by 2015. The relationship between Assange and his Ecuadorian hosts eventually soured after a conservative government came to power, and he was evicted in April 2019. British police immediately arrested him for jumping bail in 2012. Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November because so much time had elapsed, but Assange remained in London's Belmarsh Prison as he awaits a decision on the U.S. extradition request.
On 11 April 2019, after the Government of Ecuador had decided to stop granting him asylum in its London embassy, Assange was arrested by the British police, and found guilty that day of breaching the UK Bail Act. On 1 May 2019, he was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison in the United Kingdom, and the Government of the United States unsealed an indictment against him for alleged computer intrusion, based on a series of leaks provided by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The charges were extended on 23 May 2019 to violating the US Espionage Act of 1917.
A federal grand jury returned an 18-count superseding indictment 23 May 2019 charging Julian P. Assange, 47, the founder of WikiLeaks, with offenses that relate to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States. The superseding indictment alleges that Assange was complicit with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense. Specifically, the superseding indictment alleges that Assange conspired with Manning; obtained from Manning and aided and abetted her in obtaining classified information with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation; received and attempted to receive classified information having reason to believe that such materials would be obtained, taken, made, and disposed of by a person contrary to law; and aided and abetted Manning in communicating classified documents to Assange.
A federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment 24 June 2020 charging Julian P. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with offenses that relate to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States. The new indictment does not add additional counts to the prior 18-count superseding indictment returned against Assange in May 2019. It does, however, broaden the scope of the conspiracy.
On Feb 17, 2020, Doctors for Assange demanded "an end to the torture and medical neglect" of Julian Assange. Yet no responsible authority has acted. Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and two medical experts visited Mr Assange in prison in May, 2019, concluding that his treatment constituted psychological torture, a form of torture aimed at destroying the personality of an individual.
On 04 January 2021, the district judge at the London central criminal court rejected the extradition request against Julian Assange, finding that he was likely to be held in conditions of isolation in the United States and that procedures described by United States authorities would not prevent him from potentially finding a way to take his own life. THe judge found that Assange “faces the bleak prospect of severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum”.
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