A US counter-espionage strategy paper signed by President Donald Trump warned that “the number of actors targeting the US is increasing”.
Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and terrorist groups have joined forces with “ideologically motivated entities such as hacktivists, leactivists and information disclosure organizations” that US intelligence agents see as “a significant threat.” [PDF]
In the final argument for extradition against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, attorneys for the Crown Prosecution Authority stated that WikiLeaks was an ideologically motivated entity that “seeks to encourage individuals to hack into computers”.
Prosecutors go on to claim that Assange promoted “mass and indiscriminate theft of a variety of documents” and circumvented freedom of expression issues by maintaining WikiLeaks, “which cannot be compared to the New York Times.”
“The real purpose and design of WikiLeaks was to recruit people who break the law – by circumventing classification restrictions, as well as computer and access restrictions,” the filing said. They requested classified information on a “Most Wanted Leaks” list and invited insiders to break the law or outsiders to hack government agencies.
Regarding a third indictment, announced in June and served weeks before the extradition trial, prosecutors allege Assange told an audience of hackers that there was a “small security flaw within the Congressional document distribution system”. He published materials he sought “hacked into” and “exhorted” the public to “join the CIA to steal information.”
Mention is made of a 17-year-old who was allegedly asked by Assange to “perform computer interference and steal audio recordings of conversations between senior officials in a NATO country”. He allegedly also instructed this minor to “break into someone else’s computer and delete chat logs”.
This minor, referred to as a “teenager”, is Sigurdur. According to the defense, “Siggi” Thordarson was “convicted in Iceland of fraud, theft and impersonation of Julian Assange”. He sold goods through a WikiLeaks store without authorization and embezzled $ 50,000.
The Island Monitor reported in 2015 that Thordarson was sentenced to three years in prison for “sexually violating nine boys”. He “molested a boy over forty times in two years when the boy was between 15 and 17 years old.” Each boy was promised “to pay for oral and anal sex” and he also offered to “pay for things like internet connections, phone bills, television subscriptions, and even open bank accounts overseas”.
Thordarson was an FBI informant who asked agents for money. They ended up paying him $ 5,000 for “work he missed meeting agents” in Alexandria, Virginia, where the grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks was being conducted.
The defense recalled, “The then Icelandic Home Secretary reportedly ordered a number of FBI prosecutors who had arrived in Iceland to investigate the teen’s claims to leave Iceland. The Home Secretary made statements at the time, and has since made statements that he believed the investigation was intended to “frame” Assange. “
At the Hacking at Random conference in the Netherlands in 2009, Assange allegedly said WikiLeaks had identified “a minor vulnerability” in the US Congress’ document distribution system that could be used to download “Congressional Research Service reports” that were not available were to the public. “
Until 2016, unclassified CRS reports were unnecessarily kept secret by Congress. WikiLeaks released nearly 7,000 reports in 2009 to undermine a “gray market” around the documents in which opportunists smuggled reports and offered them to lobbyists, law firms, multinationals and foreign governments.
The Inspector General of the Library of Congress investigated the publication of CRS reports but was apparently unable to link the leak – or exploitation of a security flaw – to WikiLeaks.
After the revelations about US mass surveillance programs by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Assange spoke at the December 2013 conference of the Chaos Computer Club in Germany. He encouraged young system administrators to “join the CIA”.
“Go in there,” said Assange. “Go to the ballpark and get the ball and take it out – with the understanding, with the paranoia, that all these organizations are being infiltrated by this generation, by an ideology that is spreading over the Internet. You can do this.” And every young person is trained on the Internet. “
For the Justice Department, Assange’s comment “exhorted” the next generation of people to become CIA agents in order to “steal” classified information and hack into government computer systems. However, Assange did not specifically urge anyone to engage in a conspiracy. He appealed to young people to address a government corruption crisis by enforcing transparency at a time when governments generally use secrecy rules to hide crimes, illegal programs and other abusive acts.
The list of the most wanted leaks is central to the government’s conspiracy theory against Assange. But Pfc. Chelsea Manning, the US Army whistleblower who was the source of the materials in question in this case, never provided any of the “bulk databases” on the list.
As Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs noted during her court martial, military prosecutors could only tie her to “four of the things on the list” “remotely”.
At her trial on June 8, 2013, her defense violently denied whether Manning had ever seen a draft of the Most Wanted Leak List. Manning did not mention the list at all in her testimony in court when she pleaded guilty to a number of crimes.
Rainey Reitman and Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) highlighted this aspect of the case. “Unlike many other Wikileaks.org, the ‘Most Wanted’ leak was actually a publicly editable wiki.”
“Rather than viewing this document as a wish list created by Wikileaks staff, or a reflection of Assange’s personal priorities, we need to understand that this was a publicly prepared list developed by contributors who felt that each” wanted ” Document contains information that is of public value to employees, ”Reitman and Opsahl argued.
Or to put it another way: Coombs described the list as “WikiLeaks says: Look, tell us, humanitarian activists, NGOs, fellow reporters, what would you like to know about your country? What in your country is hidden from the public that you believe the public should know? Give us a list. “
“We will compile this list and work to maintain this list. How does that sound Every journalistic organization that says a hotline or something else calls us. You have a story Give us a call. We will investigate. “
The US government relies on the “Most Wanted Leaks” list to create the impression that Manning “worked for WikiLeaks”. If Manning wasn’t recruited, it becomes more difficult to argue that Assange helped, favored, or conspired to steal classified documents.
Prosecutors attempted to address this dilemma by testifying Manning in front of a grand jury to testify and imprisoning her for a year. Manning adhered to her tenets and defied prosecutors because they believed they were setting a perjury trap that would force them into additional legal danger.
The Crown Prosecution Authority addresses this in its final argument by leaning on US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg and upholding US law enforcement.
After Ms. Manning’s confessions of guilt, a “providential investigation” was initiated to ensure that the cause of action was voluntary and factual. This was a limited examination of the facts Ms. Manning was willing to admit, and she was not subjected to exhaustive questioning about the crime or surrounding circumstances [Kromberg 1, CB2 §§142-3, Kromberg 4, CB8 §42]. Afterward, Ms. Manning refused to testify before a grand jury and was found to be despised [§§145-156]. The second affidavit from Gordon Kromberg [CB3 §§12 and 13] retains the factual position of the public prosecutor’s office. Ms. Manning is said to have responded to inquiries in the “Most Wanted” list.
It is unclear which “allegations” Kromberg or the Justice Ministry refer to in their case. In particular, none have been used by military prosecutors.
Unfortunately, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is likely to find this is a dispute between prosecutors and defense lawyers that could be settled in court.
The defense presented its final argument on November 6th and had the opportunity to present a counter-argument to the prosecution.
Baraitser will decide on the extradition request on January 4th.
Assange was charged in April 2019 with 17 violations of the Espionage Act and a conspiracy over a computer break-in, which contains elements of a criminal offense under the Espionage Act. He is detained at the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in London, where he recently suffered a COVID-19 outbreak.
Charges against Assange generally criminalize the obtaining of classified information and the disclosure of US government secrets. It targets common news gathering practices, which is why the case is widely opposed by freedom of the press organizations around the world.