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Throw the Book at WikiLeaks

August 12th, 2010 at 4:29 pm | 23 Comments |

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Word comes from The Daily Beast that the Obama administration is attempting to make the West uncongenial to WikiLeaks principal Julian Assange.   Mr. Assange has used information illegally obtained from a disgruntled homosexual soldier, cialis to publish classified material about the war in Afghanistan.    Mr. Assange appears to be a loathsome individual of a now familiar-type that determines for himself what military secrets the free countries of the world can protect.  Mr. Assange, try according to Wiki, ailment a former hacker and a member of a group called “International Subversives”, has spread information that allows the Taliban to track down those helping the legitimate Afghan government and kill them.  Of course, Mr. Assange is the one who feels persecuted.

The Obama administration is asking other Western nations such as Britain, Germany and Australia, all of whom have soldiers at risk in Afghanistan, to prosecute Mr. Assange.  Civil libertarians will no doubt be outraged.  The real question is what choice do we have?  In the internet age using easily digitized information and a disgruntled insider, ideologically motivated moral preeners like Mr. Assange can do tangible and critical damage to United States, and by extension, world security.

If countries like Britain can prosecute him and make travel and money exchange difficult, all the better.  The alternative is to do nothing.  The message of the United States to those like Mr. Assange must be that when you hurt us and those allied with us it will not be costless.  You will not endanger American lives with illegally obtained material and then fly around the world soaking up plaudits from the usual suspects.

Are we at war or are we not?  If someone opposed to the liberation of Europe leaked the names of everyone in the French Resistance while away in Brazil would anyone argue FDR should not have had him prosecuted to the full extent of the law in any allied nation?  Are we serious about the war or not?  If we are, those who damage its prosecution by law breaking have to be met with serious consequences and not some winking admiration for being a “rebel.”

Mr. Assange has set out to hurt us and is careless of the lives of our men.  He may seek to operate from Iceland, as the article notes, but hopefully the long dark winter there won’t be long enough to hide him forever.

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23 Comments so far ↓

  • DFL

    Private Manning swore an oath to serve the United States government. He turned traitor and he should be executed. I am not familiar with Mr. Assange.

  • Carney

    Hear hear! Vecchione is exactly right.

  • TerryF98

    So you want to execute a man for leaking some out of date documents, yet you defend a President and his vice President for Torture.

    Pretty amazing.

  • Throw the Book at WikiLeaks | FrumForum | The Daily Conservative

    [...] the article here: Throw the Book at WikiLeaks | FrumForum Share and [...]

  • buddyglass

    “loathsome individual of a now familiar-type that determines for himself what military secrets the free countries of the world can protect”

    Wait, he should defer to any country that asks him not to divulge its secrets? Or just the “free countries”? Who decides which countries are free?

    “has spread information that allows the Taliban to track down those helping the legitimate Afghan government and kill them”

    He disputes this, of course. If he didn’t give a rip over the forces fighting the Taliban then he wouldn’t have bothered to redact the documents at all.

    “those who damage its prosecution by law breaking”

    I’m curious on the jurisdiction and legality here. If I’m not a U.S. citizen and I obtain top-secret U.S. documents while outside the United States, then publish them outside the United States, what’s the basis for prosecuting me in the U.S.?

    Assange is undoubtedly a smug douchebag. He may also have damaged the U.S.’s ability to prosecute the war. But, from a layman’s p.o.v., I have serious doubts as to the U.S.’s jurisdiction to prosecute him.

  • WizCo

    This is your war, Vechionne. If you wanted to get serious about winning it, you should be advocating conscription, making legislators send their kids to fight it. The whole point about Julian and Wikileaks is to expose the fact that this war is a pointless effort in killing people. “Leaks” used to be known as “journalism”. In your world, you want a modern Traitors Gate, complete with Julian Assange’s head on a pike at the entrance to deter followers. We need more people like Assange willing to risk life and limb to expose the inhumanity of this disgusting, pointless, treasury gutting war.

    You call Assange a “loathsome individual” and yet you don’t know him or understand his motives.
    He is a hero on the level of any man or woman involved in risking his life for what he believes is right. You have no basis to judge him. You have no right to judge him.

    Long live the legacy of William Felt, long live Daniel Ellsberg, and long life and power to Julian Assange.

  • freedomrings

    I’m sympathetic to his effort to publish data. There is way too much secrecy in government and efforts to shine light should be encouraged. Of course he should do it in a way that doesn’t endanger lives, and he seems to have at least tried to do this by redacting things. His is a risky business though, and if he was careless and afganee people are murdered because of him he should have to face the music. But I don’t agree with going after him just because he releases secret documents.

  • stevelaudig

    Let me get this straight officeholders lie and hundreds of thousands of deaths certainly result from the lies. In the process of following up on and activating the war generated by the first round of lies, other government officials lie and their lies are documented in their own words. Someone then publishes the lies and maybe a few people who were assisting the officials in the second round of lies die as a result and you want to “throw the book” at the person who made public the documents that prove both rounds of lies. Which book is this that you want to throw at the revealer? I’m thinking of the book of war crimes at the first round of liars and some of the second round of liars. That would save more lives.

  • jg bennet

    the gov should copywrite classified information and go after guys like this with relentless civil lawsuits.

    if we go after their money they will think twice about publishing when they have judgements slapped on them for millions.

    they go after people for music, dvd’s software etc. why not classified documents?

  • Frogmorton

    The fact that the left have embraced this guy as a hero is hilarious. We almost know to the day when this war will end but that doesn’t stop him from leaking sensitive documents which may lead to the deaths of NATO troops and Afghan civilians. How was it he received these papers? A soldier outraged by atrocities he’d seen? Not quite. It was a soldier upset over don’t ask don’t tell. Now Mr Assange could hold these papers till the troops pull out then release them but he knows that if he publishes them now traffic on his web site will explode. Traffic = Money. Risking lives to hasten the end of a war which already has an expiration date is beyond foolish. This was about the cash. Those of you who oppose the war have every right to voice your opinion but I would hesitate to make Mr Wipe (who looks like an extra from the twilight movies) the poster boy for freedom and journalism.

  • CO Independent

    >> I’m curious on the jurisdiction and legality here. If I’m not a U.S. citizen and I obtain top-secret U.S. documents while outside the United States, then publish them outside the United States, what’s the basis for prosecuting me in the U.S.?

    The jurisdictional issues would be tricky, but perhaps not insurmountable. It is a mistake to believe that a country’s jurisdiction stops at the border or cannot extend to foreign nationals. Various countries, including the US, routinely extend the geographic scope of laws beyond their borders (e.g., sex tourist laws, tax laws, etc.) and to foreign nationals (e.g., war crimes, terrorism). The trick will be nabbing him. My hunch is that if Mr. Assange can be lawfully arrested by a country which has jurisdiction over his person and said country turns him over to the US for prosecution, then the US government could rightfully detain him for the duration of his prosecution.

    Mr. Assange travels constantly, essentially living on an airplane and in airports. Therefore, his whereabouts are known to the host governments of the countries between which he travels. Any country can detain him at the airport. The fact that he has not been detained shows that the Obama administration is not leaning particularly hard on the host countries on this issue.

    >> You call Assange a “loathsome individual” and yet you don’t know him or understand his motives. He is a hero on the level of any man or woman involved in risking his life for what he believes is right. You have no basis to judge him. You have no right to judge him.

    Surely you jest. By this standard Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers were all heroes.

    @jgbennett: US copyright laws preclude the US government from obtaining copyright in government publications.

    IMHO, the Afghan government is the party which was probably most damaged by this leak. Mr. Assange should be arrested and turned over to the Afghan government for detention, trial, and subsequent punishment.

  • jg bennet

    co independent

    i see i spelled copyright wrong oops

    check this out. what do you think, is there wiggle room?

    Copyright status of work by the U.S. government
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A work of the United States government, as defined by United States copyright law, is “a work prepared by an officer or employee of the U.S. government as part of that person’s official duties.”

    The term only applies to the work of the federal government, including the governments of “non-organized territorial areas” under the jurisdiction of the U.S Government, but not state or local governments.

    In general, under section 105 of the Copyright Act, such works are not entitled to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law, sometimes referred to as “noncopyright.”

    **The act only speaks about domestic copyright. The USA can still hold the copyright of those works in other countries.**

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_status_of_work_by_the_U.S._government

  • CO Independent

    @jgbennet:

    No, there is no wiggle room in this case. These records clearly are works prepared by officers or employees of the federal government. The fact that the records were created outside the US is not relevant.

  • WizCo

    “Surely you jest. By this standard Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers were all heroes.”

    Ha ha! I jest? Call back with your ridiculous syllogism when Assange flies a plane into a building and kills 3000 people. Get a grip.

    Assange want you to wake up: we are engaged in a hopeless, potentially endless war that has already destroyed too many lives, and the only actual benefit goes to arms manufacturers, military contractors, war cheerleaders on the right and terrorist recruitment. Anyone who puts a dent in this nasty business and hastens a military pullout is a hero.

  • searchlight

    The truth about the cost of America’s wars – and the success of America’s war aims – is far more important than the whistleblower.

    Wikileaks’ information confirms what is already understood by most informed observers: Afghanistan is a failed war. The cost of this failure – in money, resources, human lives and future policy options – is, and will continue to be, colossal.

    To make this whole issue about Julian Assange and the soldier who gave him the information is misguided at best, willfully ignorant at worst.

  • buddyglass

    > The jurisdictional issues would be tricky, but perhaps not insurmountable. It is a mistake to believe that a country’s jurisdiction stops at the border or cannot extend to foreign nationals.

    True. I agree that jurisdiction doesn’t necessarily stop at the borders, and that a country can indeed prosecute individuals who are not citizens of that country. But it seems like either the person being prosecuted must be a citizen (e.g. sex tourism) or the crime must have been committed in the country (e.g. hacking into a U.S. bank from abroad). In this case, Assange is not a citizen and his crime occurred entirely outside the United States.

    Imagine if Saudi Arabia tried to prosecute me for proselytizing a Saudi Arabian citizen who was traveling in the United States. I’m not a Saudi, and the proselytizing occurred outside Saudi Arabia. Do they have jurisdiction to prosecute me?

    Or how about this one. I’m a U.S. citizen on vacation in Egypt. I hook up with an attractive woman and subsequently discover she’s an Israeli spy. Let’s say I’m anti-Israel, so I “out” her to the Egyptian government, then fly home to the United States. The Israel intelligence operation she was involved in is completely ruined due to my interference.

    Should Israel be able to extradite me from the U.S. and prosecute me for screwing up their covert op?

  • CO Independent

    >> Imagine if Saudi Arabia tried to prosecute me for proselytizing a Saudi Arabian citizen who was traveling in the United States. I’m not a Saudi, and the proselytizing occurred outside Saudi Arabia. Do they have jurisdiction to prosecute me?

    I probably should have been clearer and made the explicit distinction between subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. As the names imply, subject matter jurisdiction relates to whether the court has the power to hear the subject matter of the case and personal jurisdiction relates to whether the court has jurisdiction over the parties.

    Jurisdiction is best thought of as whether a court of a particular state entity will accept the power to hear a case. Jurisdiction exists because the court (or the state) says it does. So if a Saudi prosecutor can convince a Saudi court to accept jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case, then the answer is yes, they can prosecute you, even in absentia. In the US you could challenge the exercise of jurisdiction up to the Supreme Court, which would ultimately decide the matter. I don’t know how the Saudi court system works so I can’t comment on that.

    It’s basically the same answer for your Egypt hypo. If an Egyptian prosecutor can convince an Egyptian court to take the case, you can be prosecuted in Egypt, even in absentia.

    To actually carry out a penalty against your person, they would need to take you into custody. It’s unlikely the US would agree to extradite you to Egypt. But if the Egyptian secret police nabbed you off a street in Jordan and whisked you away to Egypt, I suspect you would be screwed. That’s why the CIA dumps AQ types off for a little Egyptian vacation.

    I’m not an expert on the law of classified materials, so I don’t know whether these statutes have geographic limitations in them. I suspect they do not, since they many of these laws were written before the internet and in the context of cold war spy networks. Thus, the subject matter jurisdiction part of this case seems plausible.

    Obtaining personal jurisdiction over Mr. Assagne in a way that would satisfy constitutional requirements in the US is a trickier matter. We can’t just go pluck Mr. Assange off a street in Iceland. However, if he is detained by Iceland police at an airport in Iceland or by Europol at an airport in Europe and turned over to the US then we probably can exercise personal jurisdiction over Mr. Assange. The fact that this has not happened indicates that the Obama administration doesn’t really want to dirty its hands with this case.

  • WizCo

    “However, if he is detained by Iceland police at an airport in Iceland or by Europol at an airport in Europe and turned over to the US then we probably can exercise personal jurisdiction over Mr. Assange. The fact that this has not happened indicates that the Obama administration doesn’t really want to dirty its hands with this case.”

    Oh, right. Obama just decided it’s hands-off Assange. Sounds reasonable. Or perhaps it’s because Iceland just enacted legislation making it the freedom of speech clearing house for the entire world and would look pretty stupid detaining Assange at the Obama Admin’s behest:

    “At 4 a.m. on Thursday, at the end of an all-night session, Iceland’s Parliament, the Althing, voted unanimously in favor of a package of legislation aimed at making the country a haven for freedom of expression by offering legal protection to whistle-blower Web sites like WikiLeaks, which helped to craft the proposal.”

    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/victory-for-wikileaks-in-icelands-parliament/

    But blaming Obama is the American national pastime these days. Apparently he’s also the guy who fired up the TARP machine too. Perhaps we can fit him for an inside job on the recession. He must have wanted it so he could initiate his socialist takeover, no?

  • CO Independent

    @ Wizco:

    You have poor reading comprehension, analytical skills, or perhaps you’re just a complete moron. Those flights which originate in Iceland terminate elsewhere, mostly in Europe–hence the “or Europol” language in my statement. Iceland’s local whistleblower laws do not offer sanctuary in Europe. Assange must go through security and/or customs, where he could be detained. He is reported to be in the UK, which has troops in Afghanistan, right now.

    So yes, my position is that the Obama administration is not particularly serious about apprehending Assange. You can rebut this position by providing links to the dozens, if not hundreds, of news articles about the Obama administration’s efforts to have host governments locate and obtain Assange. Good luck.

  • WizCo

    Oh dear. My poor reading comprehension at least allows me to go over my own posts and figure out what I have said. It was YOU who specified Iceland in your post about arresting Assange. I merely pointed out they have little interest in doing so. Calling me a moron looks childish when I can quote you to yourself:

    “We can’t just go pluck Mr. Assange off a street in Iceland. However, if he is detained by Iceland police at an airport in Iceland…”

    Yes, I’m sure he travels around a bit, perhaps even in other Europlaces, probably wearing a false nose and beard. But petitioning allies to place a global APB on the man seems extreme and perhaps a bit bureaucratically clumsy. I know you want him, but plucking him out of a Europort is unlikely as it might be a bit unlawful, cause a ruckus, piss friends off, friends you need in Afganistan. But if they really want to silence a loud, smart, pain in the ass, perhaps they can get the team that killed Tillman on the job. They can burn his server passwords after they hit him. Or an unmanned drone! Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.

    As for finding news articles about how the US spooks are trying to find and “obtain” Assange, well, they might be a bit more clever than throwing the game up on the Google.

    However, if you are right and the Obama admin doesn’t want to find him, or arrest him, or any of that heavy handed shite, perhaps they might have their reasons other than not wanting to “dirty their hands”. Perhaps making a martyr of the man would be counter productive, especially if his followers have orders to dump everything they have regarding US military and political malfeasance on the editors at the NYT, The Guardian and Der Speigle if he’s pulled in. He’s a cool drink of water, that guy.

  • CO Independent

    Goddamn, Wizco, you are dumb as a post. Read the rest of the paragraph you excerpted.

    Moron.

  • WizCo

    Mmmm… name calling. How fresh.

    It is said, CO Independent, that “independents” are just republicans in disguise. If true, then I’ve figured out why you are so ignorant and mean. Please, join a tea party where you can mingle with kindred spirits.

    Goddamn indeed.

  • Peter Kemp

    There appears to be a lot of confusion in web postings on the legal liability of Wikileaks.

    If the US’ 1st Amendment protections somehow were found not to apply, then the Espionage legislation can be examined to see if any liability exists along with common law (or codified law) of conspiracy for same, or as an accessory to breaches of the Espionage legislation (Code)

    “Whoever, in time of war, with intent that the same shall be communicated to the enemy,…”

    And there’s the difficulty that starts right there: domestic legislation applicable to US citizens with the potential ONLY to apply to foreigners within the jurisdiction for conduct within the jurisdiction. There cannot be a conflation of US domestic law with International law that says US domestic law applies around the world, (unless that domestic legislation ALSO happens to be International law, eg war crimes)

    Assange is not a US citizen; was not within the jurisdiction when the files were uploaded to Wikileaks; had no role in the removal of files from military computers; had no knowledge presumably of the files until after they landed on a server outside the US.

    If Assange went to the US he could apparently be held as a material witness for the prosecution of the people who copied and took the files. If he was in the US he could theoretically be charged with conspiracy per the Code, but that would likely go nowhere as the common law of conspiracy (which I assume applies in the US as common law or codified conspiracy law), requires that one person conspires with another (or more) to plan/perpetrate the conduct such that even if the conduct never happens: there is still an offence committed. There would have to be proof that Mr Assange plotted with the leaker(s), communicated with them for a conspiracy charge to stick and there is not a scintilla of evidence for that so far.

    The massive single difficulty US authorities have is that Mr Assange is not within the jurisdiction and is not likely to go there anytime soon. It is at this point that commentators in the US start conflating US domestic law with International law, or extra-territorial judicial powers. Saying there is a “book” to throw at Julian Assange neglects to say what that book is. Domestic or International law?

    Given that Mr Assange did not do anything within the jurisdiction of the US, I imagine that any indictment could try to link him as an accessory with the acts of the leaker but this is highly problematic. An accessory in most legal systems that I am aware of, (especially common law nations like the US, Canada, the UK and Australia) must have some knowledge that a crime is being, or will be committed, or becoming aware afterwards, assists for example the perpetrator to escape.

    This raises an immediate difficulty that Wikileaks goes to great lengths NOT to know who is the leaker by arranging for anybody to anonymously upload through internet TOR pipelines, for example to Wikileak servers. Even if the leaker is identified afterwards by other entities, — potential accessory after the fact–this runs up against the historical common law position expressed by that English jurist Blackstone:

    “Therefore, to make an accessory ex post facto, it is in the first place requisite that he knows of the felony committed”.

    To which I would add, logically “And of the felon”.

    Whatever the posited indictment, an extradition request by the US-presuming that Mr Assange remained in one country long enough-would run into more brick walls. Given the fact that the Australian government apparently refused a US request to investigate Assange, an extradition request Downunder is most likely to be refused as well. Other nations and NATO members in particular and the United Kingdom are unlikely to cooperate and many of their citizens would likely regard it all as a political witch hunt given the memory of the legal black hole (in International law) created by Guantanamo Bay.

    The calls from the US for Assange’s “blood” are in the meantime most unedifying and counterproductive in that it will tend to confirm the view held among many in the world that the US tries to solve too many international problems with violence, and on that topic one thing now seems to be overlooked: that Wikileaks exposed the extreme violence meted out to hundreds more civilians in Afghanistan, hitherto covered up. That is the real issue, along with some 20,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

    In summary, there is no book to throw.

    Peter Kemp.
    Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW Australia.