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Kiriakou writes: "If recent press reports are to be believed, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the target of a secret grand jury investigation, either in the federal court of the District of Columbia or in the notorious Eastern District of Virginia, known colloquially as 'the espionage court.'"

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (photo: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (photo: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)

A Fair Trial for Julian Assange

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

30 May 17


f recent press reports are to be believed, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is the target of a secret grand jury investigation, either in the federal court of the District of Columbia or in the notorious Eastern District of Virginia, known colloquially as “the espionage court.” Assange is currently holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he fled to avoid a British arrest warrant and probable extradition to Sweden on what supporters and many legal analysts called a flimsy sexual assault case.

The Swedish case was dropped last week, but Assange remains in the embassy. British authorities say that he still faces a misdemeanor UK charge of jumping bail (on the moot Swedish case), but the British disingenuously won’t talk about the rumors of a US case and the possibility of extradition to the US.

For its part, the Justice Department isn’t saying anything. Still, the Trump administration, like Obama’s before it, has made it clear that it sees Assange as an arch-criminal, rather than a journalist. And CIA director Mike Pompeo went so far as to say that Wikileaks acts as a “hostile foreign intelligence service.” Remember, Pompeo is the same guy who said that he’d like to see Ed Snowden “hang from a tree until he’s dead.”

I’m not an Assange fan personally. We have some friends and acquaintances in common, and they tell me that he is a misogynist. And we can’t ignore the fact that Assange’s single-minded obsession with ruining Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election and publishing the embarrassing “Podesta emails,” very likely played a role in giving us Donald Trump.

Still, the Trump administration’s position on Assange is to level serious charges and to speak bombastically. Neocon and neoliberal rhetoric aside, though, Wikileaks is a journalistic entity devoted to transparency and Julian Assange is a journalist, whether Washington muckety-mucks like his politics or not. A criminal case against him could put the CIA in a very difficult position because a trial would have to lead to invocation of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). It could also lead to a constitutional crisis over the first amendment’s freedom of the press. If Wikileaks is devoted to transparency and exposing governmental waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality – which it is – well, that’s the definition of journalism, isn’t it? Even the most basic charges against Assange would merit appeals to the Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court. Does the Justice Department want to risk overturning the Espionage Act? It would be a serious gamble.

CIPA, which was passed into law in 1980, allows the government to keep things secret in a national security trial that otherwise may have been made public. It reduces incidents of “graymail,” where a defendant may insist on revealing classified information to defend himself. For example, if a defendant is charged with revealing that “Zorg” was a secret program that damaged Iranian widgets, and both “Zorg” and the widgets are classified, “Zorg” will be referred to in the trial as “carwash,” or some such nonsense, and the widgets will be referred to as “cigars.” The jury has no real idea what in the world was revealed in the first place. But, at least in the Eastern District of Virginia, they always vote “guilty” anyway.

At the District Court level, then, the only way for Assange to get a fair trial would be for the court to order the declassification of CIA and FBI documents necessary for his defense. Would the intelligence community want to risk even further exposure of classified information in a trial? They would have to if they intend to prosecute. Assange is entitled to this information as discovery. But does the government want to take the risk of Assange passing the discovery on to Wikileaks, again, in the interests of transparency, CIPA be damned? Furthermore, the CIA has never said one way or the other if the documents that Wikileaks has released as attributable to the CIA are actually original and true Agency documents. They would have to do so in a trial.

Policymakers at the Justice Department, the CIA, the FBI, and the White House clearly have not thought this through. It’s one thing to criticize journalists who publish stories that contain “classified” information. It’s an entirely different thing to try to punish those journalists under the Espionage Act. And it’s unprecedented in American history. Cooler heads have to prevail in Washington. You don’t have to like Julian Assange’s politics to love constitutional freedoms. You don’t have to like Julian Assange as a person to value what he and Wikileaks do to expose waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality (which, by the way, is the very definition of whistleblowing). Julian Assange could not get a fair trial in a federal court. He shouldn’t have to have any trial in the first place.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+51 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-05-30 18:04
I remember the trial of the first WTC bombers and Omar Rachman. The bombing was coordinated by an Egyptian secret service agent on loan to the FBI. He recorded conversations inside the mosque that incriminated the religuous group accused of setting off the bomb in the parking garage under the WTC.

The defense was sure that the judge would allow full discovery of the FBI double agent's notes, recordings, and papers. Not so. The defense got nothing. The double agent was a provocateur. Without him, there would have been no bombing. That argument was not allowed in court.

And this week Noriega dies. He was sure the double dealings of George Bush would make the government drop the charges. But Bush's name was forbidden from the trial by the judge.

In short, the government can do what ever it wants to Assange -- once it has him in its clutches. Assange needs to stay is asylum.
+13 # Citizen Mike 2017-05-30 21:34
How can US law claim jurisdiction? Assange is not a US citizen, nor has he ever set foot on US soil. Can anybody explain this to me? Whatever he did was performed elsewhere.
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-05-31 12:36
Citizen -- I can explain it to your very clearly. The FBI has for a half century claimed to have global jurisdiction. It maintains offices in about 100 nations around the world and it maintains the right to arrest people who violate US law anywhere they happen to reside.

This is from the FBI website --


For more than seven decades, the FBI has stationed special agents and other personnel overseas to help protect Americans back home by building relationships with principal law enforcement, intelligence, and security services around the globe that help ensure a prompt and continuous exchange of information.

Today, we have 64 legal attaché offices—commonl y known as legats—and more than a dozen smaller sub-offices in key cities around the globe, providing coverage for more than 200 countries, territories, and islands. Each office is established through mutual agreement with the host country and is situated in the U.S. embassy or consulate in that nation.

Our legal attaché program is managed by the International Operations Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "

The FBI may use the British police as a cover, but they will be the ones to snatch and render Assange if he set a foot on the sidewalk.
+5 # Anonymot 2017-05-31 15:17
Why, 7 decades goes right back to the Dulles era. Originally, the FBI was domestic policing and the CIA was international espionage. They got involved in expanding their territories, then in conflict. I think that much of what is going on is a bureaucratic power struggle between the two.
+13 # mashiguo 2017-05-30 21:53
We live in a rapidly intensifying fascist state.
Of course Assange will never get a free trial in US.
On the darker side, how long before writing an article like this leads to a summary execution?
If history is any guide, most of us will be alive by that time.
+16 # xenonman 2017-05-30 23:12
Assange would be very foolish to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy. He would be quickly snatched up by goon squads of MI-5/6, who would turn him over to their CIA counterparts, who in turn would clandestinely transport him to the USA!
+6 # BettyFaas 2017-05-30 23:52
Mr. Kiriakou, this article contained lots of interesting information. However, I had a difficult time reading beyond the silly little paragraph four. It irritated me. Had you left out that irrelevant, inaccurate, and biased material, the article was excellent. I always appreciate your articles. One irritation won't be fatal.
-3 # davehaze 2017-06-04 09:05
I concur, Betty Fass. After all of the unsubstantiated bad things said about John Kiriakou he should not pass on gossip about fellow whistleblower and journalist Julian Assannge, "friends and acquaintances.. .tell me that he is a misogynist." And Wikileaks did the United States a service by exposing the compromised and corrupt DNC and John Podedta. Although mainstream media covered the leaking of the material and Wikileaks and Julian Assange and speculation that it was the Russians, and not the information itself which hardly got any exposure.

Hillary would have won the election if not for massive suppression of black Hispanic and Asian and the student votes in Republican controlled States. But don't believe me read investigative reporter Greg Palast and his exposure of the software program cross-check.

And yes I agree, regarding John Kiriakou's silly paragraph, let it pass, forgettable and forgiven.
+4 # elkingo 2017-05-31 00:27
Power corrupts and total power...
+9 # Anonymot 2017-05-31 01:08
America The Beautiful is not so Beautiful any more.
America The Great is now impossible to restore.

Who ever thought our development of technology marvels like the television and computers, cellphones and twitter would be vehicles for our mental disintegration? Who imagined that our Teutonic heritage of aggression and violence would rise above Goethe, Heine, Rilke and take "fair play" and honesty with it.

The few like you and Assange and Snowden, among others revealed the self-inflicted wounds we have, the holes that gape in our national flesh, the absolute control acquired by a handful of our politicians, bureaucrats, and rich. There is no left left and by world standards, there never was. Progressive is an empty word.

We have disintegrated into a pile of squealing victims, minorities who find no majority that will hear their cause and act beyond lip service and head nods.

We have made the ultimate zombie movie starring US.
+6 # wantrealdemocracy 2017-05-31 19:07
"We disintegrated into a pile of squealing victims, minorities who find no majority that will that will hear their cause and act beyond lip service and head nods." True, but this is the plan of the rich to keep the people down. We need to get together, all the working class people of this nation and TOGETHER rise up in rebellion. We are the many...they are the few.
+5 # madame de farge 2017-05-31 05:43
Excellent points. After all if Obama AND a Democratic Senate and House could not get a HAIRCUT at the very least on the BANKSTERS TRIPLE FRAUD what can you expect from the Republicans.... .. MORE and WORSE CORRUPTION.....

Article from Fortune showing that Goldman SACHS demanded a 70% haircut on the bonds it bought from ....Venezuela....

Nice gig if you can count on getting 100% out of the government/corp oration after less than 10 years.... That's abut a 15% annual return which is shabby compared with what Wall Street did to Stockton California and Jefferson County Alabama...
+15 # ivories29 2017-05-31 06:19
The vindictiveness of the U.S. government toward Julian Assange is frightening and shameful.
+4 # Anonymot 2017-05-31 10:06
And it was and is driven by a woman called Clinton whose incompetence he exposed. She has intimate relations with the CIA and Assange had better stay locked up until she loses those connections, if ever.
+4 # ishmael 2017-05-31 08:25
Didn't Assange say he'd leave when Chelsea Manning was released?
+4 # 2017-05-31 10:49
Quoting Rodin Raskolnikov,

And this week Noriega dies. He was sure the double dealings of George Bush would make the government drop the charges. But Bush's name was forbidden from the trial by the judge.
More George W Bush deceit? Really, so who is
0 # Marshalldoc 2017-05-31 11:04
You could have saved a lot of verbiage by printing only the last sentence.
+3 # jwb110 2017-05-31 11:45
Assange will never get a fair trial in this country. The Russians fiddling in a US election is OK. Assange releasing documents that were withheld from US citizens is not OK. Which of these incidents most puts the DEMOCRACY in danger?
0 # lfeuille 2017-05-31 17:59
Why the title? The body of the piece indicates that there should be no charge, so why a trial?
0 # ericlipps 2017-06-01 05:02
"Should be" and "will be" are not the same.
0 # John S. Browne 2017-06-04 11:07

Kiriakou, you're not a fan of Julian Assange personally; and you believe innuendo of friends and acquaintances in common with Assange? Well then, you're an idiot. Yes, it is awful that we got "T(R)ump" (the ass end of a braindead ass), but thank God we didn't get that globalist (aka, global enslavement minion) neocon-neoliber al hawk, "'Hitlery' ('Shaft-Us') Clinton"! She would have been just as bad or worse.

You really need to stop gossiping about people, and believing such gossip, about a global hero like Assange. Is he perfect? Of course he isn't. Is Snowden perfect? Is Manning perfect? Is Sterling perfect? Is McGovern perfect? Is Drake perfect? Is Edmonds perfect? Are you perfect? Etc.? No, of course you aren't. Some of you falsely believe that "sanity" can be had in extremely evil "intelligence" agencies and/or within the extremely evil FBI. Thus, those of you who believe like that, are insane.

You support some "national (in)security" madness, therefore supporting, whether you face it or not, the continued turning of our beloved country, and the world, into an increasingly totalitarian "national (in)security" dictatorship (of many dictators) and militarized corporate-fasci st police state, with continued eradication of all outward human and civil rights, imprisoning us all in a mass-open-air prison, enslaving us all with no True Liberty(ies) and Freedom(s), and expanding the empire building and mass-murder of mostly civilians, both at abroad and at "home".

-1 # ericlipps 2017-06-07 04:50
You don't have to be "perfect" to avoid letting your personal hatreds make you a perfect dupe for a foreign power's efforts to tilt a presidential election toward a candidate it favors.

We have no guarantee that the Russians didn't doctor the emails they "leaked" to Assange--and for that matter, no assurance that Assange would have cared if he'd known they had, as long as the material in question made Hilary Clinton look bad.

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