Following the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, The Canary has examined the evidence available in relation to the US indictment against him. And we have reached the conclusion that the indictment is seriously flawed.
But it’s not about Assange himself. It’s about the way the indictment is worded.
On 11 April 2019, the US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Virginia released a statement summarising the charges against Assange. Reference was made to the (unsealed) indictment – a copy of which is here.
The charges in the indictment recycle allegations that were previously reported by Wired in December 2011. According to that publication, these are the chat logs alleged to be between US army analyst Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks.
Manning and Assange
In a report early on in Manning’s trial, it was alleged that one of the messages on a computer drive used by Manning said:
You can currently reach our investigations editor directly in Iceland – 354 862 3481 – 24 hour service – Ask for Julian Assange.
In relation to this, the indictment against Assange claims that:
discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’
However, this is simply stating that a source was encouraged to provide further information – which is what all journalists do.
In February 2019, Chelsea Manning was asked to testify to the East Virginia Grand Jury – the same Grand Jury which has indicted Assange. Manning refused, saying she had already provided a detailed statement to her court martial on her role in and the methods used to upload documents to WikiLeaks. Consequently, she has been imprisoned for an indefinite time
Storage of documents
it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks to transmit classified records containing information related to the national defense of the United States.
it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks, including by removing usernames from the disclosed information and deleting chat logs between Assange and Manning.
UN report on protecting journalism sources in the digital age
And it adds that:
Also it recommends that it is important to:
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson says that if Assange is extradited to the US he could face more charges. He uses the Espionage Act as an example – the contravention of which includes the death penalty:
Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a former Icelandic Pirate Party MP and the co-publisher of Collateral Murder, the video that graphically showed US military shooting down Iraqi journalists and civilians:
In the wake of Assange’s arrest, Jónsdóttir urged solidarity:
Assange is not without his critics, however. It appears that imprisoned activist and hacker Jeremy Hammond now believes such solidarity should be directed solely at Manning. And Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was imprisoned for more than a year by the Egyptian authorities, disputes that Assange was ever a journalist.
Regardless of these criticisms, it’s patently clear that the charges raised against Assange point to a political agenda that could affect the work of journalists everywhere.
Moreover, it is clear that the methodologies practised by WikiLeaks are markedly different from the kind of journalism most people are used to. But in the digital age, we have moved on, though the justice system has yet to catch up – as is very clear from the US indictment.
And this is why the indictment against Assange is so critically flawed.
Featured image via screenshot
- Join a vigil of solidarity for Julian Assange on Saturday 14 April, from 4pm outside Belmarsh Prison, London
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