back to article WikiLeaks boss Assange acted as a foreign spy, Uncle Sam exclaims in fresh rap sheet

Julian Assange has been formally accused by the US government of breaking the Espionage Act, expanding the legal case against him and raising significant free speech issues. The Department of Justice announced on Thursday it was effectively alleging the WikiLeaks founder acted as a foreign spy when he published hundreds of …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was fine with the first indictment

    If it really was true he induced / helped others to break into systems then he's guilty of a crime.

    But a lot of these new charges amount to "being someone we have decided we won't call a journalist", which would be quite dangerous - especially with a president who thinks he has the right to decide who is "fake news" and who isn't, based on how their reporting treats him.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I was fine with the first indictment

      It does seem typical of the US justice system though. Throw the whole book at them and see what sticks.

      1. revenant

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        Throw the whole book at them and see what sticks.

        As if written on a block of Post-It Notes.

      2. Stork

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        I just think it may be counterproductive (from the US point of view) in this case. Sweden has a ban, and perhaps even UK is reluctant to extradite persons for political crimes.

        The hacking charge may be accepted both places, but it is easier to argue that the more recent charges are political.

        Oh, and Mr. Assanges itenary still has to be resolved. Perhaps the best bet for US "justice" is a UK-SWE-AUS-US round trip? From Assange's PoW, UK-SWE-Equador (where he may disappear under strange circumstances). Fellah painted himself into a corner.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I was fine with the first indictment

          Although this is an extremely serious matter - both for Mr Assange and for the rule of law and free speech in general - it will be amusing to see how the British and Swedish governments manage to square that circle.

          (By the way - I do know that squaring the circle has been proved to be impossible. But somehow politicians and business people keep on trying to do it).

          I would be prepared to place a substantial bet that those "bans" do not prevent them from sending Assange to the USA. (Although they might try to save face somewhat by pretending he has been kidnapped or some such nonsense. After the Skripal farce one can no longer imagine that they care about public opinion).

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: I was fine with the first indictment

          I think that's the idea.

          Trump doesn't really want Assange on trial in the US, no telling what sort of embarrassments that might lead to. What he wants is to pose as a tough guy for his followers, provoke the press into attacking him, maybe provoke Congress into impeaching him, and provoke the Europeans into defying him. All of which will play directly to his standard speech about how it's America against the world and no one but him will stand up to them.

          Assange himself is irrelevant, nobody except Assange really cares what happens to him. He's become a prop now. Potentially useful for all sorts of people and purposes, but only for what their posturing says to their own voters.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        A better description of the "US justice system" would be:

        "Hang the jerk now, and we'll think about a trial later".

        1. Robert Helpmann??
          Childcatcher

          Re: I was fine with the first indictment

          Hang the jerk now, and we'll think about a trial later

          "Hang 'em first, try 'em later."

          - Judge Roy Bean

      4. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        This is just the first tranche.

      5. GnuTzu

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        "...see what sticks."

        At what point does it become harassment?

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: I was fine with the first indictment

      If it really was true he induced / helped others to break into systems then he's guilty of a crime.

      You give me a photo of the insides of the President's football, I'll give you a packet of popcorn. OK, a silly example, but it's something I've always wanted to know*. I've also been very curious about the 'journalist' aspects of Assange's case. If a journalist pays a source for a story, is that normal, or inducement? If a journalist obtains classified information, does that exempt them from official secrets, or espionage charges?

      Personally I think espionage may be stretching things, ie that's normally state sponsored, or sometimes corporate, and legislation seems to be worded that way. Then there's official secrets as a backstop. They're usually simpler bits of legislation along the lines of being in possession of classified information without lawful authority. Then it seems to be a case of hoping the authorities won't prosecute.

      So for me, it's where the lines should be drawn between potentially justifying publishing something on public interest grounds vs the need to protect sensitive information. If the balance sways too far, it'll be a lot harder for journalists to hold government accountable.

      *OK, I bet a packet of popcorn + some butter that it's not anywhere nearly as fancy as it's shown in most technothrillers.

      1. Barry Rueger

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        If a journalist pays a source for a story, is that normal, or inducement?

        Actually it's pretty standard practice in the UK. Your local practices may differ.

        1. Mongrel

          Re: I was fine with the first indictment

          Actually it's pretty standard practice in the UK. Your local practices may differ.

          Depends on the order things happened in, as I understand it;

          If the criminal act happened and then the perpetrator went to the press (paid or not) then that was part of the journalists job and printing that information is just the journo doing their job.

          If the journalist (or publication) paid a third party to gather the information illegaly then that's is a criminal act (see phone tapping & News of the World).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I was fine with the first indictment

          If a US government employee pays a newspaper or radio/TV station to publish a story - or even hands the story to them for publication without editing - that is certainly normal practice. And has been for decades.

          Why should citizens or foreigners have less freedom to know the facts?

      2. Anne-Lise Pasch

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        And if the journalist is crowdfunded, where is the limit of culpability...?

    3. LucreLout

      Re: I was fine with the first indictment

      But a lot of these new charges amount to "being someone we have decided we won't call a journalist", which would be quite dangerous

      I agree, it would, and it should rightly cause concern, however, simply saying "No, it's OK, I'm a journo" should rightly not be viewed as a permit to do whatever you please. If being a journalist is to convey any leniency or privilege at all, then there has to both be some definition of what constitutes an actual journalist, and some oversight on their activities to ensure they don't overstep the mark (again).

      especially with a president who thinks he has the right to decide who is "fake news" and who isn't, based on how their reporting treats him

      That seems to me to be mostly borne of the fact that the left have decided, for reasons only knowable to them, to refuse to accept when they lose a vote. Democracy absolutely requires that the losers acknowledge their defeat and that they accept it. It simply cannot survive when the losing side pretend they might have won or simply want to obstruct whoever won the vote from implementing their mandate.

      If I had to venture an opinion on why, I'd have to guess it's because their group-think has led them to mistakenly believe their views occupy some moral high ground and that other perspectives are invalid or somehow nasty or evil. Emotive fascism, of a sort.

      From the article:

      But at the same time many of the methods he employs to get hold of information and made it publicly available are effectively the same, making it hard to draw a distinction.

      I've always considered Assange something of an egotistical tosser, but I'd given him enough credit to assume even he wouldn't stoop to journalist levels.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        "Democracy absolutely requires that the losers acknowledge their defeat and that they accept it."

        No it does not. Democracy allows the argument to be advanced again and again. Just about every advance to what we now accept as right and proper has been defeated democratically, possibly many times, and then, democratically, accepted.

        Losers resorting to violence after losing democratically is, of course, another matter.

        1. LucreLout

          Re: I was fine with the first indictment

          No it does not. Democracy allows the argument to be advanced again and again.

          It allows the argument to be advanced again yes, but it doesn't allow implementation to be aborted. Trump gets to be President. That doesn't stop Pelosi disliking his views or arguing against them, but it absolutely does require Obama hand over the keys to 1600 Penn Ave.

          You have to accept you lost the election. You can keep arguing, but you can't deny the result or pretend it didn't happen.

          Just about every advance to what we now accept as right and proper has been defeated democratically, possibly many times, and then, democratically, accepted.

          Yes, but power transitioned and the world moved forward because people accepted they had lost the vote and needed to rethink and reframe their argument.

          This pretense that Trump isn't president, the UK doesn't have to leave the EU etc etc it's all just destroying democracy and polarising and entrenching positions. It helps nobody.

          It'd be far more constructive to accept Trump as president, because he is, and argue that he's a bad president or that his policies suck. Nothing good will be achieved by the refusal to accept his democratically given right to the Presidency.

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            This pretense that Trump isn't president, the UK doesn't have to leave the EU etc etc it's all just destroying democracy and polarising and entrenching positions. It helps nobody.

            Since Brexit has been dragged into this... the UK doesn't have to leave the EU, that's simply not how our parliamentary democracy works, and the reasons why are related to the way the vote was conducted being a terrible idea in the first place. With no plan on how the thing was to be implemented or timetable set out the outcome can only be regarded as a statement of intent. Now, having looked at what the finest minds of this country (!?) can actually deliver and how it stacks up against what was promised, if the democratic intent changes we don't need to leave and then re-enter as if there's some kind of democratic computational queue to be obeyed.

            The rush to trigger article 50 by the eurosceptics in the tory party as if they were thieves trying to escape with the loot has actually undermined any effort to get a sensible resolution to the thing. Though the cynic would suggest their personal goals aren't necessarily aligned with the best interests of the country anyway.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            "You have to accept you lost the election. You can keep arguing, but you can't deny the result or pretend it didn't happen."

            "Obama is not my President, I didn't vote for him, he's a Democrat"

            "Trump is not my President, I didn't vote for him, he's a Republican"

            Repeat ad nauseam every four years (names changed regularly to protect the guilty)

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: I was fine with the first indictment

              "Trump is not my President, I didn't vote for him, he's a Republican... and I'm im the UK" :-)

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                So, downvoter, I'm meant to call him "my president" even though I'm not American, and don't live there?

                1. Bernard M. Orwell

                  Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                  Well, clearly they expect Assange to do so.

                  Can't wait for the brain fart argument that the 1st amendment doesn't apply because he's not a US citizen, but the espionage laws do because he's a spy. US logic for you.

      2. Kane Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: I was fine with the first indictment

        "Democracy absolutely requires that the losers acknowledge their defeat and that they accept it. It simply cannot survive when the losing side pretend they might have won or simply want to obstruct whoever won the vote from implementing their mandate."

        No.

        To quote Ian Hislop: “And suck it up? And what bit of it don’t I get? You lost. Loser. Failing. Sad. Hashtag ‘go home’. I know the arguments but I'm afraid no, I'm going on. As I keep trying to explain to people who are very, very upset about this, democracy works by people continuing to argue about the issues involved. When someone wins an election, the opposition doesn't say that’s it, thank you very much, we’re going home for the next five years. You continue with the argument because it is in everyone’s interests for you to present those points of view.”

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I was fine with the first indictment

          Hislop - true to form - was cleverly confusing the issue. There are two separate propositions here.

          1. When an election has been held, everyone is bound by the results. That is, if the election chose a government or a representative, everyone concerned is bound to accept - if not support - that government or representative until the next election. The opposition is NEVER allowed to claim that the duly elected government is illegitimate - that's what the US-backed troublemakers routinely do in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, etc. That's why, in the UK, they are called "Her Majesty's LOYAL Opposition". They are allowed to argue and challenge in Parliament to the best of their ability, but they are not allowed to question the government's authority.

          The same goes for a referendum. When a clear majority of British citizens chose to leave the EU, that settled the issue for once and for all. Otherwise those in power could use the time-honoured EU tactic of simply having a new referendum annually until they get the result they like - and THEN there are no more referenda, of course.

          2. However, an election or referendum does not stop opponents of the winning side from continuing to argue their case. At that point, however, it is a lost cause - until the next election. And as referenda are one-off events, there should never be a second referndum on the same question.

          1. Aladdin Sane

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            It was an advisory referendum, Parliament decided they wanted to follow said advice. The leave campaigns lied and cheated and don't even bother denying that any more.

            1. Oddlegs

              Re: I was fine with the first indictment

              It was an advisory referendum

              I'd have a lot of respect for any remain leaning politician who came out and simply said "the referendum was only advisory, we think it's a really bad idea so we're not going to enact the result".

              There's a reason they haven't though. It would be political suicide. You can't state "This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide" in an official campaign leaflet and then later just say "nahh, we were only kidding before when we said it was your choice". Far better for your career to try to convince the people that you're following their will by not leaving.

              1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                > There's a reason they haven't though. It would be political suicide.

                Reminds me of the old saying that politicians know the right thing to do, they just don't know how they'd get re-elected afterwards.

              2. GruntyMcPugh

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                @Oddlegs: "It would be political suicide"

                It has been suicide. Cameron fell on his sword pretty quick. The 2017 election saw the Govt lose it's majority and forced a coalition. MPs have resigned their posts in droves. May is now falling on her sword. Brexit is political poison.

              3. Bernard M. Orwell

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                "I'd have a lot of respect for any remain leaning politician who came out and simply said "the referendum was only advisory, we think it's a really bad idea so we're not going to enact the result"."

                Vote LibDem then.

            2. LucreLout

              Re: I was fine with the first indictment

              It was an advisory referendum

              There's no such thing.

              The leave campaigns lied and cheated

              Ok, so what happened to the punishment budget? What happened to the immediate recession? The crash in house prices? The crash in the stock market? The rise in unemployment? And you think Leave lied??! I have a bridge you may like to buy. F.F.S.

              1. BigSLitleP

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                It was an advisory referendum

                "There's no such thing." - https://fullfact.org/europe/was-eu-referendum-advisory/

                "What happened to the immediate recession?" - have we left yet?

                "The crash in house prices? " - Have we left yet?

                "The crash in the stock market?" - Have we left yet?

                "The rise in unemployment?" - Have we left yet?

                "And you think Leave lied?" - Nope, it's been proven that they lied.

                1. Oddlegs

                  Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                  To quote from the BBC:

                  George Osborne says he will have to slash public spending and increase taxes in an emergency Budget to tackle a £30bn "black hole" if the UK votes to leave the European Union

                  The Guardian states that the emergency budget would occur "within weeks of an out vote"

                  We were told those things would happen simply after voting to leave. Here we are three years down the line and the economy seems to be continuing in an ok fashion, better than most of the eurozone in fact. Could it have been even better following a remain vote? Well we'll never know.

                  Both sides stretched the truth during the campaign but the same could be said about literally all political campaigns ever. Read up on how the leave campaign broke electoral law. It was nothing to do with telling lies.

                2. LucreLout

                  Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                  "What happened to the immediate recession?" - have we left yet?

                  "The crash in house prices? " - Have we left yet?

                  "The crash in the stock market?" - Have we left yet?

                  "The rise in unemployment?" - Have we left yet?

                  The remainer lies were not predicated on having left - these were just the day one after the referendum effects that were being bandied about.

                  But the biggest lie of all, the absolute whopper of the whole campaign, that the EU has kept peace in Europe since the second world war is both factually and readily demostrably a lie. Yet remainers seem to believe it.

                  Why only this afternoon I had one tell me in all seriousness that to vote to leave means every rEU citizen in the UK would be kicked out. Where do they get this nonsense?

                  1. BigSLitleP

                    Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                    You keep trying to move the goal posts and no-one is having it.

                    The Leave campaign lied over and over again. The Leave campaign also broke campaigning laws. If everything else you have posted is so "factual and demonstrable" then please provide evidence.

                    The fact remains that Brexit promises everything and delivers nothing. It has no purpose.

                  2. Schultz

                    People being wrong or lying...

                    is part of human nature, so if course you can expect people on both sides, remainers and leavers, to do it. The more relevant question I have for you is whether YOU are trying to lie to me and whether you are smart enough to realize where you were right and wrong.

                    Making mistakes is normal. Being the in denial about your mistakes once they become obvious is just stupid or malicious. Take your pick.

                  3. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

                    Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                    "vote to leave means every rEU citizen in the UK would be kicked out"

                    Of course not. Just that a hostile environment will make most of them leave sooner or later. Good enough for you?

                    Don't worry, you'll have your decline as soon as Brexit happens. If it happens.

                  4. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                    And your lot keep coming out with the bollocks about the Lisbon Treaty.

                    https://fullfact.org/europe/viral-list-about-lisbon-treaty-wrong/

                    For lying, cheating, scheming, and manipilation, the leave campaign wins hands down.

                    And, following the Trump text-book, they've come out with lie after lie to scare the stupid and ignorant.

                    Also, like Trump, they don't seem to care how obvious their lies are. There are videos out there with the leave campaign saying "no-one is saying we'd leave the customs union."

                    And Farage said that "a 52%" majority would not be sufficient, it would require a further vote down the line.

                    And how about Turkey?

                    Still, they don't care, because still, morons refuse to see the truth in front of them.

                    So don't try and pull that crap. the leave campaign was built on bullshit from start to finish, and as for "EU citizens being kicked out", you'll find that was actually started by the jingoistic/racist hardcore alt-right brexitters... So "oops", a bit of an owngoal there.

              2. Bernard M. Orwell
                Facepalm

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                There's no such thing as an advisory referendum?

                Bullshit. Here you go:

                "The European Union Referendum Act 2015 – the law that allowed the referendum to take place – didn't specify what would happen in the event of a vote to leave. ... It said “because of the sovereignty of Parliament, referendums cannot be legally binding in the UK, and are therefore advisory”.11 Oct 2017"

                Now, before going all gammon faced, read that sentence again:

                "because of the SOVEREIGNTY of Parliament, referendums cannot be legally binding in the UK, and are therefore ADVISORY"

                How does that ruling by the EU, backing our SOVEREIGNTY, sit with your Brexit fantasy? Gotta be confusing that poor little brane.

          2. Valerion

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            And as referenda are one-off events, there should never be a second referndum on the same question.

            Why not? Sure, not immediately after, but after a few years it seems appropriate. Circumstances have changed. More detail is known. The population itself has changed. Many of the "facts" have proven to be lies (on both sides).

            Many argue that the original 1970s referendum wsa the defining vote and should never be challenged.

            I suppose the real problem is that we still don't know for sure what are facts and what are lies, and still have no idea what leaving might actually look like.

          3. BigSLitleP

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            "When a clear majority of British citizens chose to leave the EU, that settled the issue for once and for all."

            For a start, even Nigel Fromage himself said that a 2% gap can't be called a clear majority. Also, 35% of a population is not a clear majority. Secondly, no vote on anything settles an issue once and for all. Otherwise there would be no point having general elections every 4 years.

            "And as referenda are one-off events, there should never be a second referndum on the same question."

            There was a referendum on joining the EU years ago, so i guess we shouldn't have had one about leaving? Great! Let's cancel the whole stupid Brexit thing and get back to some sensible behaviour instead.

            1. LucreLout

              Re: I was fine with the first indictment

              There was a referendum on joining the EU years ago

              WRONG! The UK never joined the EU. The people were never asked.

              The UK voted to join the common market, not the rest of the batshit crazy empire. Do try to keep up at the back.

              1. BigSLitleP

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                "WRONG!" - Did you go to the Donald Trump school of debating?

                So we voted to join the common market...... that means we don't need a vote on leaving it then? So we should stay in it then?

                Get off your magic carpet, it's a whole new world full of people that think Brexit is a Jafar-ce.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                Even Wikipedia knows that political integration was from the start, a goal of the EEC and the ECSC before it.

                It's really weird that so many Brits still believe strongly that it was only some sort of purely economic agreement. It was never only that. But the UK did benefit a lot of the economic part, so maybe they forgot that there always was a strong political side, too.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Economic_Community#Background

                1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                  Yep - the very first bullet point in the Government leaflet from the 1975 referendum said:

                  "The aims of the Common Market are:

                  - To bring together the peoples of Europe"

                  image: https://digital.library.lse.ac.uk/objects/lse:div796mek/view/

                  leaflet: https://digital.library.lse.ac.uk/objects/lse:fug282yox

              3. Bernard M. Orwell

                Re: I was fine with the first indictment

                Dear god, you do like to split hairs don't you?! We didn't join the EEC, technically, we joined the European Community (the forerunner to the EU) and yes, there was indeed a national referendum on whether we should. It was held in 1975.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_United_Kingdom_European_Communities_membership_referendum

                Perhaps you should be trying to keep up at the back instead, but you seem to be too busy standing in the playground shouting to actually learn anything.

          4. Mike Moyle

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            "The opposition is NEVER allowed to claim that the duly elected government is illegitimate..."

            Do you mean as was done for the two terms of the previous President without valid cause (See: Birther, Merrick Garland, etc.) as opposed to the current self-dealing, fellow-traveling (if not actively conspiring), President (who actually lost the vote but won in territory held)?

          5. batfink Silver badge

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            Bollocks. Back in 1975 the UK decided, via a referendum, to join the EU (well EEC as then).

            So by your logic, that should've settled the question and we should never have had a referendum about leaving it again.

            1. Blue Pumpkin
              FAIL

              Re: I was fine with the first indictment

              FFS read some history and at least get the basic facts correct

              The Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath, took the UK into the EEC in January 1973.

              The referendum of 1975, under Wislon's government, who backed leave, was whether or not to continue to stay in Europe.

              The electorate expressed significant support for EC membership, with 67% in favour on a national turnout of 64%.

              The referendum result was not legally binding - because referenda / ums are not, they are public opinion polls to assist parliament - however, it was widely accepted that the vote would be politically binding on future Westminster Parliaments.

          6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: I was fine with the first indictment

            "2. However, an election or referendum does not stop opponents of the winning side from continuing to argue their case. At that point, however, it is a lost cause - until the next election."

            Get a group of 5 Brexiteers together and ask them what Brexit should look like and you'll get 350,000,000 different answers on the side of a bus!

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