Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Narrow, Subtle Case Against Julian Assange

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

I am no fan of Julian Assange or Wikileaks. However, for years I’ve made it clear that prosecuting him for publishing leaked documents would be a huge mistake by the US. The DOJ spent years trying to come up with an excuse to charge Assange, but kept realizing they had no case, because while he may have had malicious intent, none of his public actions in releasing documents were any different — legally speaking — than what any investigative journalism outlet did in releasing obtained documents. The Supreme Court has made it clear that publishing classified documents is protected by the First Amendment. If he went beyond just releasing documents, as the indictment alleges, it becomes a lot trickier — but there’s a fine line here.

It’s been clear in the last year or so, that despite years of not finding anything, the DOJ was finally moving ahead with plans to charge him. As we noted last year, everyone who believes in a free press should be concerned about what this might mean for press freedoms in the US as the case proceeds. And that’s true, even if the specific charges right now are limited to actions that are unrelated to the publishing of the documents.

Rayne” at Emptywheel:

I don’t think Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion (18 USC 371, 1030(a)(1), 1030(a)(2), 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii)) is enough to warrant extradition alone.

Otherwise a Leicestershire 18-year-old would have been looking extradition for his attempted hacking of U.S. officials in October 2015, instead of eight charges of “performing a function with intent to secure unauthorised access,” and two of “unauthorised modification of computer material.”

The waiting game continues.

It is not useful speculating at what, specifically, Assange may be charged with in addition to conspiring to crack a user’s password in an attempt to mask a source accessing classified information. But it is worth keeping a close eye on this case. As several legal observers have noted today, there are parts of Assange’s case that overlap with regular journalistic practices of guarding the identity of sources, and receiving secret and classified information. Therefore, this is a case that must be read in its entirety; no single part of the indictment should be seen as setting precedent to punish journalists who work with leaks involving the same kinds of information.