Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters Friday the Pentagon stands ready to dispatch more troops to the border region if President Trump follows through with his pledge to increase the military presence along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.
Trump said after touring a section of recently upgraded border fencing in Calexico, Calif., last week, “We’re going to bring up some more military” to deal with what he said were more than 70,000 illegal migrants rushing the border.
Shanahan said the Pentagon has had conversations with the Department of Homeland Security but has yet to receive a formal request.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ll provide more support to the border,” he said in response to a reporter’s question as he prepared to meet with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “Our support is very elastic, and given the deterioration there at the border, you would expect that we would provide more support.” Shanahan said he anticipates the support will be similar to what the military has already provided with several thousand troops, barrier construction, transport, and surveillance.
Shanahan will meet with a planning team at the Pentagon over the weekend to prepare for the potential request, he said.
“It will follow up with where are we on barrier construction, where do we stand on troops deployed, and then in the areas we anticipate, what type of preliminary plans should we be doing prior to receiving a request for assistance,” he said.
Democrats have been highly critical of the deployment of active-duty troops to the border, and many have cited a leaked internal memo the Marine Corps commandant sent to the Navy secretary warning that unexpected expenses, such as hurricane damage and border operations, could force him to cancel routine training and degrade combat readiness.
But in Senate testimony this week, Gen. Robert Neller insisted his memo was being misconstrued. “To say that going to the border was degrading our readiness is not an accurate statement,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.
Neller’s March 18 memo listed eight categories of unfunded and unexpected expenses. Hurricane recovery was at the top of the list, but a number of expenses were included, such as the raise for civilian employees, which was not in the budget.
“We have a shortfall of just under $300 million, of which the border mission is less than 2 percent,” Neller said. “So my intent was to just simply lay out for my boss what these were and ask for support in trying to figure out how we might fund them.”
Pressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Neller conceded some Marines, who are not doing the jobs they would normally do, could see a small degradation in their unit readiness, but he said it depended on the unit.
“Some of the units have gone down there and they’ve done tasks that are more in line with their core mission. Like engineer units or MP units. Aviation units that were assigned to that early on have actually improved their readiness because they are able to fly certain profiles and things,” he testified.
Neller reports to his civilian boss, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, who requested the memo and jumped to Neller’s defense at the hearing.
“The main stress that we were dealing with at the time, senator, was the hurricane, which was imposing the greatest cost on the Marine Corps,” Spencer told Warren. “Five hundred men for a month at the southern border is $1.25 million. In my mind, is that affecting my readiness stress? No, it’s not.”
Neller said so far border operations have cost the Marine Corps $6.2 million.
LONDON (AP) — What is expected to be an epic legal and political battle over whether to extradite Julian Assange to the U.S. began to take shape, with Britain’s opposition Labour Party urging the government Friday not to hand the WikiLeaks founder over to the Americans.
Party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that the U.S. is prosecuting Assange because he exposed “evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Diane Abbott, Labour’s spokeswoman for domestic affairs, said the case is about the “embarrassment of the things he’s revealed about the American military and security services.”
On Thursday, British authorities dragged the 47-year-old Australian native from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had taken refuge for nearly seven years, and U.S. authorities announced charges against him of conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer.
The politicization of the case reflects the clashing views of Assange as either a heroic whistleblower standing up to the mighty United States or a willing stooge who helped the Russians boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign by publishing emails that embarrassed his rival, Hillary Clinton.
The battle to fend off extradition could take years and involve several layers of appeal. Assange could also face a second extradition request if Sweden decides to pursue a rape case against him that was dropped in 2017, when he was holed up in the embassy, beyond the reach of the law.
His arrest became possible after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, complaining among other things that he was a messy and disruptive houseguest.
If found guilty of the U.S. charges, Assange could get five years in prison. His next court appearance was set for May 2 via a prison video link.
Extradition lawyer Ben Keith said the court will not assess the evidence against Assange to determine his guilt or innocence but will scrutinize whether the offense he is accused of in the U.S. would be a crime in Britain.
“The most likely outcome is that he will be extracted to the United States,” he said.
Britain is bound by law not to extradite a suspect to a country where he or she could face execution for the crime, but that’s not the case here.
Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, stressed when he revoked Assange’s asylum that he had received assurances from Britain that Assange would not be exposed to capital punishment.
If Sweden also makes an extradition request, it would be up to Britain’s Home Secretary to determine which would take priority. Typically the first request made — in this case, the U.S. one — would be acted on first, but officials have some leeway, Keith said.
If Assange loses in extradition court, he could appeal several times and ultimately try to have his case heard at the European Court of Human Rights.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the UK government should not extradite Julian Assange to the US, where he faces a computer hacking charge.
The Wikileaks co-founder was arrested for a separate charge at Ecuador’s London embassy on Thursday, where he had been granted asylum since 2012.
Mr Corbyn said Assange should not be extradited “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s leader expressed anger at how Assange had behaved.
Australian-born Assange, 47, sought refuge in the Knightsbridge embassy seven years ago, to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped. But Ecuador abruptly withdrew its asylum and invited the police to arrest Assange on Thursday.
After his dramatic arrest, he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty of a British charge of breaching bail. He spent Thursday night in custody and is facing up to 12 months in prison for that conviction.
The Met said it cost an estimated £13.2m to police Ecuador’s London embassy between June 2012 and October 2015, when the force withdrew the physical presence of officers.
The Swedish authorities are now considering whether to reopen an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault, which Assange denies.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “this is all about Wikileaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public”.
But she said Assange should also face the criminal justice system if the Swedish government charged him.
In a tweet, Mr Corbyn shared a video said to be of Pentagon footage – which had been released by Wikileaks – of a 2007 air strike which implicated US military in the killing of civilians and two journalists.
The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale said backing Assange is not without political risk and will not find universal favour among Labour MPs – but Mr Corbyn’s intervention “means the battle over Assange’s future will now be as much political as it is legal”.
The editor of Wikileaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, has expressed fears that the US could file more serious charges against Assange, and that if he was convicted he could be behind bars for “decades”.
Mr Hrafnsson added that Assange had been thrown “overboard” by Ecuador – and the country was “horrible” to treat him like that.
‘He was a problem’
Meanwhile in Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno criticised Assange, claiming that after spending seven years in the country’s embassy he had dismissed Ecuador by describing it as an insignificant country.
“We had treated him as a guest,” he said. “But not anymore.”
Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Jaime Marchan, also previously said Assange had been “continually a problem” while he was living in the embassy.
Meanwhile, a man who is alleged to have links with Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s officials said.
The man – who has been identified by supporters as a Swedish software developer called Ola Bini – had been trying to board a flight to Japan.
Assange is due to face a hearing over his possible extradition to the US on 2 May.
During a briefing at the White House following Assange’s arrest, US President Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he stood by remarks that he made during his election campaign when he said he loved Wikileaks.
“I know nothing about Wikileaks,” said Mr Trump. “It’s not my thing.”
He added: “I’ve been seeing what happened with Assange and that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the attorney general, who’s doing an excellent job.”
Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.
She said she had visited Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”
Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.
Meanwhile, Australia said it had received a request for consular assistance after Assange was taken from the embassy.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Assange will not get “special treatment” and will have to “make his way through whatever comes his way in terms of the justice system”.
The arrest was welcomed by the government on Thursday. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This goes to show that in the UK, no-one is above the law.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arrest was the result of “years of careful diplomacy” and that it was “not acceptable” for someone to “escape facing justice”.
Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.
The organisation hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.
Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website. She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.
She was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.
Some of President Donald Trump’s top national security advisers have discussed whether the military could be used to build tent city detention camps for migrants, NBC News is reporting.
The network news, attributing its information to three unnamed officials, said the discussion took place at the White House Tuesday night.
The discussion also dealt with whether the military could actually be used to run the camps once the migrants are housed there. But the NBC News sources say that was unlikely since the law prohibits the military from interacting with migrants.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who attended the meeting, was open to sending more troops to the border provided their duties were within the law, the officials told NBC News.
Right now, troops are currently at the southern border and are mainly used for reinforcing fencing with barbed wire, according to the network news.
During the meeting, other potential new projects were discussed, including assessing land for construction of new tent cities in El Paso and Donna, Texas. The military would also be used for assessments before the construction of a processing center in El Paso.
Meanwhile, a border patrol official told NBC News that the military allows for faster construction than private contractors, who can slow down the process. “The importance of (the Department of Defense) is that they are able to mobilize quickly because we face an immediate crisis now,” said the border patrol official.
After nearly seven years holed up inside the cramped Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is dreading the prospect of violent attacks on him in an American prison, one of his regular visitors told ABC News’ The Investigation podcast on Thursday.
In an interview for ABC News’ “The Investigation” podcast conducted one day after Assange’s long-anticipated arrest by London police and court appearance on a 2012 bail jumping warrant and U.S. extradition request, one of his most frequent visitors described Assange’s fears of being sent to a US prison and subjected to violence inside.
“He did say he was worried that, if he was in a normal American prison, being beaten up,” war documentary filmmaker and former Taliban hostage Sean Langan, who has spent more than 50 hours with Assange in the past year, told ABC News. Langan’s last visit to Assange at the embassy was on March 22, he said.
“And then I said, ‘Well, the chances are you’re most likely’ — slightly gallows humor, it didn’t make him feel better – ‘you’re most likely going to be put into one of those federal Supermax prisons where you won’t see a soul,” said Langan, an ABC News contributor.
Perhaps most surprising to many who saw his leaks of embarrassing Democratic party emails during the 2016 campaign — which Special Counsel Robert Mueller has alleged were hacked by Russian spies in an effort to hurt rival Hillary Clinton’s chances — Assange was often sharply critical of Trump in casual conversation with a handful of visitors.
Langan says Assange described longtime Trump friend and political adviser Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. as intellectually incapable of a conspiracy, much less one that included WikiLeaks or him, and he rejoiced when Special Counsel Robert Mueller recently closed his investigation without indicting him for conspiring with Russian military intelligence to tilt the U.S. election.
“‘Those bunch of clowns’ — that was the exact quote — ‘those bunch of clowns couldn’t conspire and organize this kind of thing’,” Langan recalled Assange telling him. “He certainly did not hold [President Trump] in high regard. He was quite dismissive.”
Langan and Vaughan Smith, an Assange confidant and owner of London’s Frontline Club, began making “social visits” — as the Ecuadorian Embassy called them — with Assange in early November. The pair was among the first people summoned by the controversial publisher of sensitive secrets after Ecuador lifted a ban on his visitors and most of his communications, a loosening of restrictions on Assange that lasted six months in 2018.
Inside, they didn’t find an apartment littered with cat dropping or feces on the wall — as alleged by his Ecuadorian hosts who over time turned against their notorious asylee — but instead the “claustrophobic” quarters of a man in poor health toughing out intense surveillance of the tiny rooms he has occupied since entering the embassy in August, 2012.
That year, fearing he would extradited to the United States, Assange skipped out on his bail during a rape inquiry in Sweden. The rape inquiry was dropped two years ago but reopened today in the wake of Assange’s removal from the embassy in London, Swedish prosecutors said. Assange has denied the rape allegation.
Assange shared his recollections with Langan in five-hour rolling conversations at a table between two speakers meant to deter electronic surveillance by Ecuador or other countries. One speaker blared symphony music and the other David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Langan told ABC News.
Asked about a controversial November, 2018 report in the Guardian newspaper that Assange had met with Trump 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort — since convicted on financial crimes related to lobbying in Virginia and in Washington — he was adamant it never happened. “He said, ‘That’s [bull]. Never met him.’ So he strongly denied that,” Langan said.
The Guardian report has not been matched by any other major news organization or corroborated since it was published.
Langan said that Assange seemed to acknowledge that he had communicated with Guccifer2.0, an online persona Mueller has said in a U.S. indictment was really an amalgam of Russian spies who stole the Democratic party emails and coordinated with WikiLeaks to leak them, but said that he believes Assange was unaware of Guccifer 2.0’s true identity.
Langan said that Assange complained to him that other news outlets were communicating with Guccifer2.0 too but the U.S. government was unfairly picking on him.
“I took it to be a non-denial denial,” Langan said.
With his arrest and the prospect of a trial in the U.S. for computer intrusion relating to WikiLeaks document dumps of military and intelligence secrets almost a decade ago, Langan said Assange now realizes “that he could face the rest of his life in isolation.”
The idea of further confinement weighs on Assange, he said.
Julian Assange kept a lot of secrets while he was cooped up in a cramped corner room at the Ecuadoran embassy in London. But as his seven-year tenure there ended ignominiously on Thursday, one final mystery captured the attention of the international community.
What will happen to Embassy Cat?
The asylum seeker’s furry friend was Assange’s only consistent companion during some of his lonely years as a self-styled political refugee.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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The cat had a significant internet following of its own – though its views hewed suspiciously close to its human’s – and it was apparently a fixture at the embassy, with a penchant for pouncing on Christmas tree ornaments and for defusing tension as the WikiLeaks founder tangled with a bevy of world leaders.
It was named for its famous home, but occasionally went by “James” or “Cat-stro” after the Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s death in 2016.
Embassy Cat’s Twitter and Instagram accounts – with 31,000 and 5,000 followers, respectively – also monopolised the coveted market for cybersecurity-meets-cat puns (the cat was reportedly interested in “counter-purrveillance”).
So when police stormed the Ecuadoran embassy, arrested Mr Assange and took him into custody after a US federal court unsealed an indictment charging him with conspiracy, many worried about the fate of the feline.
Would the cat’s asylum end, too? Or was it just beginning? Would someone adopt it, or would it also face extradition to the United States? Would it fall victim to a vast conspiracy? Did it know too much?
“Is Julian Assange’s cat going to be okay though?” one person asked.
“I do hope that someone looks after his cat, who must be very confused about all this,” another said.
A third simply stated: “Am worried about … his cat.”
While it is unclear exactly what happened to Embassy Cat, multiple sources have indicated that it long ago left its home.
Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper reported in November 2018 that the cat was gone. But, according to the paper, its departure was for its own good, a benevolent gesture by its owner.
The author, who visited Mr Assange for the story, wrote that “Not even the cat is there anymore … Assange has preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.”
Sputnik News, the Russian government-funded Kremlin organisation and diligent reporter of Embassy Cat developments, said it had contacted the Ecuadoran embassy about the cat and a spokesperson confirmed that it has been gone for months.
“It is not here since September, I think,” the official told Sputnik. “It was taken by Mr Assange’s associates a long ago … It is not here. We are not a pet store, so we do not keep pets here.”
James Ball, an early employee of WikiLeaks who defected after three months at the organisation, said on Twitter that the embassy gave the cat to a shelter “ages ago”. He also wrote that he “genuinely offered to adopt it,” though it doesn’t appear that Mr Assange took him up on it.
But the person closest to Mr Assange to comment on Embassy Cat, a member of his legal team, said Mr Assange gave the cat to a family member after the Ecuadoran embassy threatened to take the pet to a shelter.
“Ecuador also threatened to put Assange’s cat in the pound,” said Hanna Jonasson in a tweet. “Incensed at the threat, he asked his lawyers to take his cat to safety. The cat is with Assange’s family. They will be reunited in freedom.”
In 2018, the Ecuadoran embassy gave Mr Assange a set of house rules that instructed him to clean his bathroom and take better care of his cat. The rules warned him that he must look after its “well-being, food and hygiene”, or risk losing it, the BBC reported.
If reports of the cat being mistreated are true, then it’s likely happier in its new home, wherever that is, said John Bradshaw, a scholar and expert on cats, dogs and their relationships with humans.
“It seems quite possible that the cat may not have been particularly attached to Mr Assange anyway,” Mr Bradshaw told The Washington Post. “If it’s already been moved, I would guess that it is missing the Embassy more than it misses him.”
Other media reports have suggested that the cat is less a companion and more of a public relations strategy. Mr Assange has told tabloids that the cat was a gift from his children, but a source who allegedly knows him well told the New Yorker something quite different.
“Julian stared at the cat for about half an hour, trying to figure out how it could be useful, and then came up with this: Yeah, let’s say it’s from my children,” the source said. “Everything is PR – everything.”
As for the new owners, Mr Bradshaw advised them to keep the cat as an indoor-only pet, since it grew up as such in the embassy. If allowed outside after its repatriation, it may try to escape and return to its old home in the London neighbourhood.
“It will probably try to get back to Knightsbridge,” Mr Bradshaw said, “and likely fall foul of the traffic”.
In the end, the man who reportedly smeared feces on the walls of his lodgings, mistreated his kitten, and variously blamed the ills of the world on feminists and bespectacled Jewish writers was pulled from the Ecuadorian embassy looking every inch like a powdered-sugar Saddam Hussein plucked straight from his spider hole. The only camera crew to record this pivotal event belonged to Ruptly, a Berlin-based streaming-online-video service, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of RT, the Russian government’s English-language news channel and the former distributor of Julian Assange’s short-lived chat show.
RT’s tagline is “Question more,” and indeed, one might inquire how it came to pass that the spin-off of a Kremlin propaganda organ and now registered foreign agent in the United States first arrived on the scene. Its camera recorded a team of London’s Metropolitan Police dragging Assange from his Knightsbridge cupboard as he burbled about resistance and toted a worn copy of Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State.
Vidal had the American national-security establishment in mind when he wrote that polemic, although I doubt even he would have contrived to portray the CIA as being in league with a Latin American socialist named for the founder of the Bolshevik Party. Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno announced Thursday that he had taken the singular decision to expel his country’s long-term foreign guest and revoke his asylum owing to Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive behavior.”
According to Interior Minister María Paula Romo, this evidently exceeded redecorating the embassy with excrement—alas, we still don’t know whether it was Assange’s or someone else’s—refusing to bathe, and welcoming all manner of international riffraff to visit him. It also involved interfering in the “internal political matters in Ecuador,” as Romo told reporters in Quito. Assange and his organization, WikiLeaks, Romo said, have maintained ties to two Russian hackers living in Ecuador who worked with one of the country’s former foreign ministers, Ricardo Patiño, to destabilize the Moreno administration.
We don’t yet know whether Romo’s allegation is true (Patiño denied it) or simply a pretext for booting a nuisance from state property. But Assange’s ties to Russian hackers and Russian intelligence organs are now beyond dispute.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 cyberoperatives for Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate for the General Staff (GRU) suggests that Assange was, at best, an unwitting accomplice to the GRU’s campaign to sway the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and allegedly even solicited the stolen Democratic correspondence from Russia’s military intelligence agency, which was masquerading as Guccifer 2.0. Assange repeatedly and viciously trafficked, on Twitter and on Fox News, in the thoroughly debunked claim that the correspondence might have been passed to him by the DNC staffer Seth Rich, who, Assange darkly suggested, was subsequently murdered by the Clintonistas as revenge for the presumed betrayal.
Mike Pompeo, then CIA director and, as an official in Donald Trump’s Cabinet, an indirect beneficiary of Assange’s meddling in American democracy, went so far as to describe WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” For those likening the outfit to legitimate news organizations, I’d submit that this is a shade more severe a description, especially coming from America’s former spymaster, than anything Trump has ever grumbled about TheNew York Times or TheWashington Post.
Russian diplomats had concocted a plot, as recently as late 2017, to exfiltrate Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy, according to The Guardian. “Four separate sources said the Kremlin was willing to offer support for the plan—including the possibility of allowing Assange to travel to Russia and live there. One of them said that an unidentified Russian businessman served as an intermediary in these discussions.” The plan was scuttled only because it was deemed too dangerous.
In 2015, Focus Ecuadorreported that Assange had aroused suspicion among Ecuador’s own intelligence service, SENAIN, which spied on him in the embassy in a years-long operation. “In some instances, [Assange] requested that he be able to choose his own Security Service inside the embassy, even proposing the use of operators of Russian nationality,” the Ecuadorian journal noted, adding that SENAIN looked on such a proposal with something less than unmixed delight.
All of which is to say that Ecuador had ample reasons of its own to show Assange the door and was well within its sovereign rights to do so. He first sought refuge in the embassy after he jumped bail more than seven years ago to evade extradition to Sweden on sexual-assault charges brought by two women. Swedish prosecutors suspended their investigation in 2017 because they’d spent five years trying but failing to gain access to their suspect to question him. (That might now change, and so the lawyers for the claimants have just filed to reopen the cases.) But the British charges remained on the books throughout.
The Times of London leader writer Oliver Kamm has noted that quite apart from being a “victim of a suspension of due process,” Assange is “is a fugitive from it.” Yet to hear many febrile commentators tell it, his extradition was simply a matter of one sinister prime minister cackling down the phone to another, with the CIA nodding approvingly in the background, as an international plot unfurled to silence a courageous speaker of truth to power. Worse than that, Assange and his ever-dwindling claque of apologists spent years in the pre-#MeToo era suggesting, without evidence, that the women who accused him of being a sex pest were actually American agents in disguise, and that Britain was simply doing its duty as a hireling of the American empire in staking out his diplomatic digs with a net.
As it happens, a rather lengthy series of U.K. court cases and Assange appeals, leading all the way up to the Supreme Court, determined Assange’s status in Britain.
The New Statesman’s legal correspondent, David Allen Green, expended quite a lot of energy back in 2012 swatting down every unfounded assertion and conspiracy theory for why Assange could not stand before his accusers in Scandinavia without being instantly rendered to Guantanamo Bay. Ironically, as Green noted, going to Stockholm would make it harder for Assange to be sent on to Washington because “any extradition from Sweden … would require the consent of both Sweden and the United Kingdom” instead of just the latter country. Nevertheless, Assange ran and hid and self-pityingly professed himself a “political prisoner.”
Everything about this Bakunin of bullshit and his self-constructed plight has belonged to the theater of the absurd. I suppose it’s only fair that absurdity dominates the discussion now about a newly unsealed U.S. indictment of Assange. According to Britain’s Home Office, the Metropolitan Police arrested Assange for skipping bail, and then, when he arrived at the police station, he was further arrested “in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States.”
The operative word here is provisional, because that request has yet to be wrung through the same domestic legal protocols as Sweden’s. Assange will have all the same rights he was accorded when he tried to beat his first extradition rap in 2010. At Assange’s hearing, the judge dismissed his claims of persecution by calling him “a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.” Neither can his supporters.
A “dark moment for press freedom,” tweeted the NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden from his security in press-friendly Moscow. “It’s the criminalization of journalism by the Trump Justice Department and the gravest threat to press freedom, by far, under the Trump presidency,” intoned The Intercept’s founding editor Glenn Greenwald who, like Assange, has had that rare historical distinction of having once corresponded with the GRU for an exclusive.
These people make it seem as if Assange is being sought by the Eastern District of Virginia for publishing American state secrets rather than for allegedly conniving to steal them.
The indictment makes intelligible why a grand jury has charged him. Beginning in January 2010, Chelsea Manning began passing to WikiLeaks (and Assange personally) classified documents obtained from U.S. government servers. These included files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and U.S. State Department cables. But Manning ran into difficulties getting more documents, owing to the limitations of her modest security clearance.
At this point, Assange allegedly morphed from being a recipient and publisher of classified documents into an agent of their illicit retrieval. “On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist [Chelsea] Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Networks, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications,” according to the indictment.
Assange allegedly attempted to help Manning do this using a username that was not hers in an effort to cover her virtual tracks. In other words, the U.S. accuses him of instructing her to hack the Pentagon, and offering to help. This is not an undertaking any working journalist should attempt without knowing that the immediate consequence will be the loss of his job, his reputation, and his freedom at the hands of the FBI.
I might further direct you to Assange’s own unique brand of journalism, when he could still be said to be practicing it. Releasing U.S. diplomatic communiqués that named foreigners living in conflict zones or authoritarian states and liaising with American officials was always going to require thorough vetting and redaction, lest those foreigners be put in harm’s way. Assange did not care—he wanted their names published, according to Luke Harding and David Leigh in WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. As they recount the story, when Guardian journalists working with WikiLeaks to disseminate its tranche of U.S. secrets tried to explain to Assange why it was morally reprehensible to publish the names of Afghans working with American troops, Assange replied: “Well, they’re informants. So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.” (Assange denied the account; the names, in the end, were not published.)
James Ball, a former staffer at WikiLeaks—who argues against Assange’s indictment in these pages—has also remarked on Assange’s curious relationship with a notorious Holocaust denier named Israel Shamir:
Shamir has a years-long friendship with Assange, and was privy to the contents of tens of thousands of US diplomatic cables months before WikiLeaks made public the full cache. Such was Shamir’s controversial nature that Assange introduced him to WikiLeaks staffers under a false name. Known for views held by many to be antisemitic, Shamir aroused the suspicion of several WikiLeaks staffers—myself included—when he asked for access to all cable material concerning ‘the Jews,’ a request which was refused.
Shamir soon turned up in Moscow where, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, he was offering to write articles based on these cables for $10,000 a pop. Then he traveled to Minsk, where he reportedly handed over a cache of unredacted cables on Belarus to functionaries for Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorship, whose dissident-torturing secret police is still conveniently known as the KGB.
Fish and guests might begin to stink after three days, but Assange has reeked from long before he stepped foot in his hideaway cubby across from Harrods. He has put innocent people’s lives in danger; he has defamed and tormented a poor family whose son was murdered; he has seemingly colluded with foreign regimes not simply to out American crimes but to help them carry off their own; and he otherwise made that honorable word transparency in as much of a need of delousing as he is.
Yet none of these vices has landed him in the dock. If he is innocent of hacking U.S. government systems—or can offer a valid public-interest defense for the hacking—then let him have his day in court, first in Britain and then in America. But don’t continue to fall for his phony pleas for sympathy, his megalomania, and his promiscuity with the facts. Julian Assange got what he deserved.
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Democrats in the New York state Assembly recently voted down a bill that would have allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars in college tuition aid to family members of Gold Star families after passing a measure earlier last week to give $27 million in the same benefits to illegal immigrants.
“We set aside $27 million dollars for college for people that are here illegally … Apparently, $2.7 million is all that the families of soldiers who are killed, get. If you’re a child of a fallen soldier, you do not rank as high and you know that by the money,” said State Sen. Robert Ortt, a Republican from Niagara, on Thursday.
The bill proposed would have expanded a program that currently serves 145 students, who are relatives or dependents of military members served in combat zones. The bill would have expanded the program by allocating more funds for those military families that qualify.
Gov, Andrew Cuomo weighed in Wednesday saying he supported the bill his fellow Democrats blocked in the Assembly in a 15-11 committee vote.
Assemblywoman Debroah Glick, a Democrat from Manhattan, responded to Cuomo’s criticism Friday.
“Wonder of the Gov is aware of the existing program providing up to $24K a year to cover tuition, room & board & ancillary costs for the spouse & children of veterans killed or severely disabled in combat zones,” she said.
Wonder of the Gov is aware of the existing program providing up to $24K a year to cover tuition, room & board & ancillary costs for the spouse & children of veterans killed or severely disabled in combat zones.
President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, in an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner, said Julian Assange could expose a “plot” involving Ukraine to falsely accuse Trump of colluding with Russia.
Assange helped elect Trump with 2016 dumps of damaging Democratic emails allegedly hacked by Russia. He was charged with a single count of computer-hacking conspiracy relating to Chelsea Manning’s 2010 leaks of military and diplomatic secrets.
Trump distanced himself from the case, but Giuliani said Assange’s apprehension — after nearly seven years in the embassy — could benefit the president, who was recently exonerated of criminal collusion with Russia by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Maybe it will shed light on the plot to create an investigation of President Trump based on a false charge of conspiracy with the Russians to affect the 2016 elections. Keep your eye on Ukraine,” Giuliani said. “It’s possible with all his sources he might know or have information of how it all started.”
Giuliani specified that he was talking about Assange exposing the origins of the federal investigation of possible Trump collusion with Russia and was not raising the possibility of Assange disproving that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Giuliani said he believed Assange may be able to “show who invented [the] false story that [Trump] colluded with Russians.”
Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney and New York City mayor, said he was “not sure yet” if Assange helping exonerate Trump would lighten his possible criminal penalties.
Assange is accused of conspiring to hack a U.S. government computer system. He allegedly communicated with Manning about cracking a password, though charging documents did not make clear if any records were accessed as a result. The charge carries up to five years in prison.
Following Assange’s arrest, experts raised the possibility that Assange would seek to “graymail” the Trump administration into dropping charges, meaning threaten to expose secrets — whether true or not — in an effort to nix the prosecution.
There are some unresolved Russia-related claims that could damage Trump, including former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s claim he overheard a July 2016 phone call in which adviser Roger Stone told Trump that he spoke with Assange, who intended to release hacked emails. Mueller’s team also focused on author Jerome Corsi, finding it implausible that he “predicted” in July 2016 that Assange had Podesta’s emails and would release them in October.
Giuliani answered with a firm “no” when asked if Assange’s arrest could put Trump in new legal jeopardy in relation to the 2016 email releases.
Although candidate Trump routinely reveled in WikiLeaks’s disclosures about Hillary Clinton, Trump as president has consistently professed ignorance about Assange and efforts to broker a pardon on his behalf. Former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., tried in vain to speak with Trump about a pardon for Assange, and on Thursday Trump claimed he knew “nothing” about either Assange or the WikiLeaks organization.
Julian Assange was arrested in Britainon a single charge of conspiracy but that is almost certainly just the opening salvo by the United States as prosecutors draw up more serious charges that could well result in the WikiLeaks founder spending the rest of his life behind bars.
Former CIA officers point to the colossal scope of the classified information dumps perpetrated by the Australian national, 47, and argue that he was responsible for American deaths. Few people are more despised by the American intelligence and criminal justice communities. Using a single, straightforward, and relatively minor charge is a common legal tactic designed to speed up an extradition process.
Arthur Rizer, a former federal prosecutor and U.S. Army veteran, described Assange as an “information terrorist” and “intelligence mobster.” He told Washington Examiner: “There are a million things other this guy could be charged with. And I wouldn’t be surprised if one of things he’s charged with is espionage.”
Rizer, now a director at the R Street Institute, said that charges of manslaughter, obstruction of justice, and mishandling of classified material were possible. “He could also be charged with many different counts of the same thing, because he published so many things,” he added.
Charles Stimson, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs and a Navy reservist told the Washington Examiner, “I’m sure there will be superseding indictments. There’s no doubt in my mind as a prosecutor. They might have a superseding indictment that’s sealed already,” he suggested.
“It’s the practice of the DOJ in a lot of instances to bring forward a single count indictment at the beginning of a long and complicated case to start the proceedings.”
The plan for how to deal with Assange was probably drawn up by the Obama administration and honed under Trump, Stimson, a Heritage Foundation scholar, said. Who would be privy to it? “I suspect [former DOD general counsel and DHS Secretary] Jeh Johnson and the previous team at the Obama administration knows and that senior leaders in the Trump administration know too.”
Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief in Moscow, said Assange was likely in further legal jeopardy, saying, “There’s the Chelsea Manning case and there’s the DNC hacking lawsuit brought against him.” It was also an open question as to “what aspects of the Mueller report fit in to all this.”
He rejected the notion that Assange could claim to be a mere journalist with free-speech protections. “WikiLeaks is more than just a repository for classified information, they’re actually out actively seeking it. And the question is whether Assange was enabling individuals like Chelsea Manning to steal classified information. That would make him a co-conspirator.”
While he doubted “there was a direct link between Assange and Russia” but he said “there may have been third party cut-outs — mutually trusted intermediaries — used by WikiLeaks and Moscow. That might make an espionage trail difficult for prosecutors to establish.
“WikiLeaks would get the information that the GRU [Russian military intelligence] hacked, but they wouldn’t get it from GRU but rather from GRU cut-outs. And that gives Assange a fig leaf of deniability,” Hoffman said. “The cut-out is designed to conceal the real collector … But it’s a distinction without a difference.”
Hoffman said that, although Assange himself did plenty of harm, “the ones who did the most damage were the ones who stole classified information — those who hacked the DNC and Chelsea Manning stealing military files.”
Bob Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East who was the model for the character played by George Clooney in the movie “Syriana,” cast that Assange could be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act. He told the WashingtonExaminer: “I’ve yet to see anything proving that. And you can’t bring an espionage indictment against someone just based on suspicion. I doubt they take him to trial on something like that, unless they have the goods on him,” he said.
Pointing to infamous espionage cases like the ones involving former CIA officers Aldrich Ames and Harold James Nicholson and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, Baer said, “They caught these guys in the act passing secrets and taking money. And I would assume those standards still apply on espionage.”
Baer said WikiLeaks inflicted major damage to U.S. national security: “Think about the damage that Chelsea Manning did to the State Department… People look at the State Department and think, ‘Who in God’s name is going to tell them anything?’ It effectively blinds the United States.” In the case of some information, the cost was direct: “Giving up the NSA [National Security Agency] stuff gets people killed.”
Stimson said: “WikiLeaks was exponentially harmful to personnel to people in uniform, it put incredible pressure on our relationships with our allies, and it was grossly damaging to national security. And it was intended to be that way.
WikiLeaks has defended itself as an opponent of government corruption and a champion of free speech. It tweeted that Assange was “a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanize, delegitimize, and imprison him.”
The single-count conspiracy indictment against Assange that was unsealed in the Eastern District Court of Virginia carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The DOJ stated that “Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network.”
It alleged Assange encouraged Manning to hand classified information to WikiLeaks: “These databases contained approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activity reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables.”