back to article US govt: Julian Assange tried to recruit hacker to steal hush-hush dirt and we should know – the hacker was an informant

Prosecutors in the US have upgraded their case against Julian Assange with a second superseding indictment claiming he sought out the services of a notorious hacker who, unbeknownst to the WikiLeaks boss, was secretly working with the Feds. The Department of Justice this week added yet more material to its indictment against …

  1. jake Silver badge

    I keep seeing this word "hacker" ...

    ... but I see no evidence of hacking.

    I see skiddies attempting to be crackers (and stupidly crowing about it), but hacking? Not so much.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: I keep seeing this word "hacker" ...

      Give it 50 years or so and the classified documents will be available for all to see. I suspect we won't be around to see that ...

      1. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I keep seeing this word "hacker" ...

        If I'm not here in 50 years, it's only because I died in the attempt.

    2. NonSSL-Login

      Re: I keep seeing this word "hacker" ...

      While some of Lulzsec may have been immature and not more than skids, there was some real talent there too.

      Even a skid needs to work out the best workflow and exfiltration methods when dealing with intelligence organisations.

  2. Blackjack Silver badge

    They are doing this now?

    It would be more believable if this "Hacker" had appeared less than a year when this whole mess started. Okay maybe two years at most.

    As it is it just looks like they caught someone doing something illegal and they offered him a deal if he testified against Julian Assange besides what he was already doing as an informant.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: They are doing this now?

      Why would they do this earlier?

      They hadn't started any public cases against him until much more recently, because he was hiding in his cupboard.

      They may very well have been sat on this evidence for quite some time, partly due to there not being an appropriate venue to air it in, but also because of the "theatrics" that make up the US justice system.

      Remember that they tend to like to sit on evidence, wait until you make a defense and *then* disclose the evidence that shows you're lying. That way they can discredit you, which may come in useful in other aspects of your trial when they refer back to it "so we're just to take the word of a liar?"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Their case must be pretty weak, if ...

    ... they're relying on testimony from the cyber equivalent of a 'jailhouse snitch'. If this all happened in 2012, why wasn't it part of the original indictment?

    Not so much a fan of Assange, but thoroughly against these kinds of political prosecutions that undermine the legitimacy of the legal system (and the TLAs, such as it is).

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: Their case must be pretty weak, if ...

      That's the way the US DoJ works: file with enough to get the ball rolling (in this case, the extradition request). Let the defendant disclose their arguments against the early charges, hopefully nailing their colors to the mast. Then file superseding indictments with charges that, ideally, contradict what the defendant has already claimed or which are careful to plug any holes that the had been identified.

      Yes, it's unfair. But criminal justice isn't much to do with fairness, but with performative "art".

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Their case must be pretty weak, if ...

        Performance art certainly and the US 'justice' system is a world leader.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Their case must be pretty weak, if ...

        That's how all police interviews work with good interviewers at least.

        They present evidence piecemeal to see what the reaction is and allow the suspect (and their lawyer) to come up with a suitable argument. Then they add more and more until the argument breaks down and they realise that a guilty plea is their best option. Otherwise their initial argument against the crime will be based around all the evidence that they are presented with.

        In theory, if the evidence is real and the suspect is not guilty then their initial contradiction to the evidence should still hold water despite any further evidence presented. If the innocent suspect did not commit the robbery in the supermarket and their argument is that they were at home at the time, then it doesn't matter what other evidence they present the story is still true.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Let the defendant disclose their arguments against the early charges

        Has it even reached that point, though? I thought they were arguing the legality of extradition based on the threat of torture or death? Upping the ante on the charges doesn't strengthen the US case, I'd have thought; it would seem to increase the risk to the accused that would argue against extradition.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Their case must be pretty weak, if ...

        "file with enough to get the ball rolling (in this case, the extradition request) ... Then file superseding indictments"

        I wonder how well that will play with a UK extradition process. AIUI the extradition is allowed against a given set of charges and facts The court might not appreciate being on the receiving end of a bait and switch.

    2. Justanotherpawn

      Re: Their case must be pretty weak, if ...

      Just like most smear cases, if you through enough s***, something's bound to stick.

      Of course they're sending a message to any other aspiring independent journalist who actually seeks to hold any western state to account on matters that you'd never find in the MSM...don't do it...we've the means to completely wreck your life.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Their case must be pretty weak, if ...

        "Of course they're sending a message to any other aspiring independent journalist"

        Which journalist are they making an example of ???

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is the use of Agent Provocateurs legal in the US?

    If the alleged crime was instigated by the State, then surely there would otherwise be no crime but for the heated imagination of the State?

    It's a trick that's been used in the UK since the days of Pitt in the 1790's and continues to be popular with state actors Infiltrating (and impregnating) protesters.

    See the role of Thomas Upton in The Popgun Plot, and more generally in "Imagining the King's Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-1796" by John Barrell.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Is the use of Agent Provocateurs legal in the US?

      > If the alleged crime was instigated by the State, then surely there would otherwise be no crime but for the heated imagination of the State?

      In this case, though, it wasn't instigated by the state was it?

      Assange asked them for docs from those victims. It's not like they went to him and said "hey, we've got xxx, wanna buy it" and then have tried to prosecute him for being complicit.

      Assange started it *and* the actual act was committed by people not involved with the state. It's just that those people were headed up by an informant (not an agent of the state, so different requirements would still apply).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is the use of Agent Provocateurs legal in the US?

        ... allegedly ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legal jurisdiction

    Remind me why US law should extend to people (such as Assange) who weren't in the US or hacked systems in the US?

    Prosecute him under UK law (if he's broken any there). It was Americans like Manning and these Lulzsec hackers (oddly enough US people) who did the hacking and broke US law. If he was in the US or stole the info from the US, then ok, but releasing data from the UK which was given to him there doesn't involve the US.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Legal jurisdiction

      If you hacked, say, the Playstation network in Japan and exposed millions of credit card numbers...

      ... would you not expect Japan to file an extradition request so you could stand trial in the jurisdiction the offence was committed, rather than one that has no law, evidence or jurisdiction about you breaking into *Japanese* systems?

      This is literally the definition and the necessity of extradition.

      And Assange is accused of conspiring (at minimum) to hack into US military systems. Which, in at least once instance, resulted in success for a short time, with Assange being the person who published the articles in question.

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Legal jurisdiction

      Remind me why US law should extend to people (such as Assange) who weren't in the US or hacked systems in the US?

      Why do you think it wouldn't?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legal jurisdiction

      "Remind me why US law should extend to people (such as Assange) who weren't in the US or hacked systems in the US?"

      Because uk.gov sold its citizens down the river with a one-sided extradition treaty. NEXT!

    4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Legal jurisdiction

      This isn't about the US prosectuing their laws in other jurisdictions, nor is it about prosecuting him under UK law for something that happened outside UK jurisdiction.

      This is about the US seeking extradition of someone whom they allege broke laws in the US, so they may subsequently prosecute their laws in their own jurisidiction.

      That someone happens to be residing here at Her Majesty's pleasure in Belmarsh. Since the UK and the US have an extradition treaty, heavily biased as it in in favour of the US, that treaty requires the UK consider extradition proceedings against Assange.

    5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Legal jurisdiction

      the only reason its a US/UK thing is because the stupid idiot decided to skip bail and hide in an embassy for 7 yrs(then pissed off the country owning the embassy and got kicked out)

      Otherwise we would have mailed him to Sweden with a very firm 'goodbye and dont come back' message, and not given a toss about him after that.

  6. alain williams Silver badge

    A lot of effort to get Assange

    How much effort is the USA putting in to prosecute those whom he exposed ?

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: A lot of effort to get Assange

      This is 100% about setting an example. No one must dare expose embarrassing, exflitated US secrets ever again. I suspect no degree of effort is "too much".

  7. John Jennings Bronze badge

    I guess they needed something else, when the Swedish setup collapsed.

    Speaking to hackers as a journo would be fine - If the hacker claims to be able to get some docs, and the journo says 'show me' or 'prove it' should that also be fine?

    Sabu and co were infiltrated - with prejudice. We already know that the FBI threatened to take the guys kids, and surely any confession or stichup by them would be shaky at best?

    It appears that some of lulsec comitted to grabbing files, and found it harder than they thought - again they were trying, not Assange...

    Bit like the accusations against Manning - she did the hacking, and gave the stuff to wikkileaks.

    Assange might have been a self promoter, and maybe a bit of a knob, but there doesnt appear to be a strong case against him as a spy...

    It does make for more headlines on the case, though. 90% of people reading the news will think he was satans bumfluff for this, which is what they (feds) are after with this.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Assange might have been a self promoter, and maybe a bit of a knob, but there doesnt appear to be a strong case against him as a spy...

      Depends what you think a spy is. Doing the dirty work yourself is obviously risky. Recruiting and directing others to do that work is a bit safer. If you're directing those people to steal secrets from TLAs, it's still espionage. I'm curious why Assage targeted the NYT though.

  8. LucreLout Silver badge

    Just put him on a plane already

    This could blow a hole in Jules' I'm-a-journalist-not-a-spy defense.

    Journalists know what a D notice is and they observe them when so served. Clearly then, assange can't claim to be a journalist, not credibly anyway.

    Among those who Assange was said to have directly contacted was Hector "Sabu" Monsegur.

    This guy is fast becoming the gift that keeps on giving. Its just a shame he didn't realize what his kids meant to him before he became an asshat hacker, got caught, and then became a snitch. How many lives has he helped ruin?

    I mean, I have no tears for assange - this is played for and got in every respect - but perpetually relying on Sabu to snitch is putting all their eggs in one basket. If he gets overturned just once for lying then all the cases are in doubt.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Just put him on a plane already

      LucreLout,

      I don't think your "he's not a journalist" argument works here. Firstly a D Notice is a UK thing, and secondly it's now a voluntary system (I'm not sure if it hasn't always been). So the MoD can issue one, but only if they're very sure they can get the press to agree. Such as they did with not telling anyone Prince Harry was in Afghanistan, which news was broken first in a German magazine (admittedly vague memory).

      Also I'm not sure if asking hackers to get info also can't be included in a definition of journalism, if you really stretch it. I believe even legit journos will sometimes accept info where they know the law has been broken to get it, I've heard the Beeb discuss their editorial guidelines on stuff like this and how strict they are.

      If he was paying them to do it, or helping, that would be difference. Of course the allegation is that he assisted Manning with tools and info to get the databases out of the US army, and that could go from conspiracy up to espionage - which makes him not a journalist.

      I'd also argue the way he handled the leaked Clinton emails made him a campaigner at the least, rather than a journalist. If not a Russian agent or stooge. But I don't know enough about how US law creates shield laws for journalists to know how that would come out.

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Just a polite request with an uncertain air of positive expectation?

    Journalists know what a D notice is and they observe them when so served. Clearly then, assange can't claim to be a journalist, not credibly anyway. .... LucreLout

    Is it true observation and compliance with a D notice is discretionary and voluntary and not mandatory?

    Such is no more than a glorified wish to be listed and recorded as sent and acknowledged as received.

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Just a polite request with an uncertain air of positive expectation?

      Is it true observation and compliance with a D notice is discretionary and voluntary and not mandatory?

      No, they're mandatory, hence observed when sent.

      There's no way for assange to do what he does under the cover of journalism in the UK because it would never be permitted.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Just a polite request with an uncertain air of positive expectation?

        No, they're mandatory, hence observed when sent. .... LucreLout

        Oh? ...... What are we to make of this information then, LucreLout .....

        Any D-Notices or DA-notices are only advisory requests and are not legally enforceable; hence, news editors can choose not to abide by them. However, they are generally complied with by the media. ..... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSMA-Notice

        Is that info from Wikipedia wrong, LL, or is yours not right and misleading?

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Just a polite request with an uncertain air of positive expectation?

          As sombody who once worked in the media, when last I looked at the D/DA Notice rules they were voluntary. Although that has lead to at least one point* where a foreign outlet has released info that is subject to a D/DA Notice in the UK I believe.

          *other than HRH in Afghanistan.

        2. Bernard M. Orwell

          Re: Just a polite request with an uncertain air of positive expectation?

          " However, they are generally complied with by the media. ..... "

          Thats because what tends to happen, though informally, is that if you do not comply with a D Notification, then you don't tend to get picked by the gov. when they want to give an interview about something - you get "disadvantged" in the race for the front page headlines.

  10. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Pirate

    Under threat of losing his children, he turned informant after being collared

    .

    I thought only the bad guys threatened like that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe they used a "You are an unsuitable father" routine - after all, he's only stealing files for a laugh (or, allegedly, for Assange). In a capitalist country, you should be stealing them for blackmail or selling to the competitors!

      Or, possibly, to give the Feds another stick to beat someone with?

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Big Brother

      "Are we the baddies?"

      1. Beeblebrox

        "Are we the baddies?"

        If you don't know who the baddies are, then yes, you're the baddies.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, "Nice couple of kids you have there, shame if they DIED!"

    4. jake Silver badge

      Except he didn't actually have any children. They were his cousins, supposedly fostered by him but cared for entirely by his mother.

      He wasn't worried about the kids ... he was worried about losing the welfare check that came with them. If he were jailed, his mom would have become the actual foster parent ... and would have received the check, thus depriving him of his only source of income.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did I miss something?

    Criminals angry over having criminal activity exposed, takes mans children to force him to witness against person exposing said corruption. I am so ashamed of my government protecting criminals and going after those that expose them. It's like a bad movie that doesn't end.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Did I miss something?

      Not a thing missed there, AC, methinks. ..... Criminals angry over having criminal activity exposed, takes mans children to force him to witness against person exposing said corruption. I am so ashamed of my government protecting criminals and going after those that expose them. .... and is akin to Rusty Old Nail Meets Prime Pile Driver Hammer Head Blows.

      And all movies always end to be again crazily worshipped, or quickly forgotten when bad, in a prequel or sequel producing other directions.

      That identifies Blighty Justice a Sham and Scam for Pantomime Villains? I wonder what Secret Intelligence Servers think about that Abusive Subversive Utility? Be they jolly enthusiastic fans or deadly serious opponents?

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Did I miss something?

        Missed the author of this post. Figured it out in the middle of the second unquoted sentence.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Did I miss something?

      His "kids" were actually his two cousins, who he was supposedly fostering. Except they were being taken care of by his mother, and by all accounts he had no interaction with them. However, he was collecting their welfare check, which was his only source of income. The "threat" was that the Feds would make his mother the actual (as opposed to de facto) custodian of the kids, and he would lose the income. At no point did the kid's lives get further disrupted during the kerfuffle. Not by the Feds, anyway.

      So yes, you did miss something. Several somethings, apparently.

      But don't let that stop you from putting the stupid skiddie on a pedestal.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Did I miss something?

        If the gentleman was committing a crime, false welfare claim, the authorities could either stop that claim instantly or prosecute him for that. It has nothing to do with the Assange business, and to use it as a threat makes them utterly despicable.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Did I miss something?

        well, I asked, not like I was just presuming. Thanks for the info, but not the jab.

  12. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Julian Assange taught me something important

    Digging into his original charges many years ago, I discovered:

    Legally, if you have sex with a girl in Sweden and later she changes her mind (eg, in Assange's case, if you later have sex with another girl and girl 1 gets upset), that is a Crime. You have committed a Sexual Offence. Of ordinality similar to America's second-degree murder, but rape. You have become a rapist, legally.

    Seriously. Officially. Formally. Culpably.

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