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Kiriakou writes: "An assistant U.S. attorney in the federal Eastern District of Virginia on November 16 accidentally revealed that WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been charged with unspecified federal crimes; those charges have been sealed."

John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)
John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)

Assange Will Never Get a Fair Trial in the US

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

17 November 18


n assistant U.S. attorney in the federal Eastern District of Virginia on November 16 accidentally revealed that Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been charged with unspecified federal crimes; those charges have been sealed. The disclosure came in an unrelated terrorism and child pornography case. In response to a media inquiry, the assistant U.S. attorney asked a judge to keep Assange’s charges sealed, saying, “Due to the sophistication of the defendant, and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.… The charges need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

There are several aspects to this “accident” that are setting off alarm bells. First, it’s news that Assange has actually been charged with something. The speculation is that the charge is likely to be multiple counts of espionage. The government will argue that Assange is not a journalist and is not entitled to journalistic protections. It will argue further that Assange did exactly what the 1917 Espionage Act describes as espionage: “Providing national defense information to any person not entitled to receive it.” (I have argued over the years that the Espionage Act is so overly broad as to be unconstitutional, although it has not been challenged through the federal system up to the Supreme Court.)

The issue here is that it is highly unusual – unprecedented, even – for a foreign national (Assange is Australian) to be charged with espionage when he did not steal the information. He was simply provided the information, which he then made public. Assange says that he was just a journalist doing his job, and no administration has ever charged a journalist with espionage for doing his job.

Second, this inadvertent disclosure confirmed that Assange has been charged in the Eastern District of Virginia – the so-called “Espionage Court.” That is just what many of us have feared. Remember, no national security defendant has ever been found not guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia. The Eastern District is also known as the “rocket docket” for the swiftness with which cases are heard and decided. Not ready to mount a defense? Need more time? Haven’t received all of your discovery? Tough luck. See you in court.

Third, I have long predicted that Assange would face Judge Leonie Brinkema were he to be charged in the Eastern District. Brinkema handled my case, as well as CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling’s. She also has reserved the Ed Snowden case for herself. Brinkema is a hanging judge. She was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan after serving as a federal prosecutor. She was then elevated from administrative judge to trial judge by Bill Clinton, under the patronage of former Republican senator John Warner.

Brinkema gave me literally no chance to defend myself. At one point, while approaching trial, my attorneys filed 70 motions, asking that 70 classified documents be declassified so that I could use them to defend myself. I had no defense without them. We blocked off three days for the hearings. When we got to the courtroom, Brinkema said, “Let me save everybody a lot of time. I’m going to deny all 70 of these motions. You don’t need any of this information to be declassified.” The entire process took a minute. On the way out of the courtroom, I asked my lead attorney what had just happened. “We just lost the case. That’s what happened. Now we talk about a plea.”

My attorneys eventually negotiated a plea for 30 months in prison – significantly below the 45 years that the Justice Department had initially sought. The plea was something called an 11-C1C plea; it was written in stone and could not be changed by the judge. She could either take it or leave it. She took it, but not after telling me to rise, pointing her finger at me, and saying, “Mr. Kiriakou, I hate this plea. I’ve been a judge since 1986 and I’ve never had an 11C1C. If I could, I would give you ten years.” Her comments were inappropriate and my attorneys filed an ethics complaint against her. But that’s Brinkema. That’s who she is.

Julian Assange doesn’t have a prayer of a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia. The only thing that can save him is jury nullification. Technically, jury nullification is illegal. That’s when a jury acquits, not because the defendant is innocent, but because the law itself is wrong. The Espionage Act is wrong. Julian Assange is a journalist. He should never have been charged with a crime in the first place. While the judge that will likely hear his case may disagree, a jury might agree. And it should.

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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.

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+23 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-11-17 12:44
Kiriakou is right on the mark. Assange will be railroaded with a huge hysteria in the media straight to an execution. No one will take any time to talk about the constitutionali ty of protections of journalists. Mueller has said that Assange is a Russian asset and that will be enough. He will be called a "traitor" to the United States by all the "liberal" media like the NYTimes or CNN.

This will be out Rosenberg trial. The evidence will be only propaganda and not proof of anything. It will be claimed publicaly that Assange got his material from Russians and he knew it. That's what the Russiagate has been about all along. This is Mueller's grand finale.

I'm not convinced the release of this information was an accident. It looks strategic. Now both Ecuador and the UK are in a box. They either go against the US justice systems to defend Assange or they give up and hand him over. I don't see either one going against the US justice apparatus. But this sort of casual release is a good way to box them in without being overtly demanding. They will cave in for the rumor of an indictment.

This is really bad. Most major news organizations published the same material that WikiLeaks did. Most publish leaks all the time. So why is it just Assange who will be executed? The answer is that he's independent. He does not take orders from the Deep State.
+16 # Inspired Citizen 2018-11-17 18:57
When you refer to "major news organizations," I understand as the corporate mass media where the progressive voices are missing. They are part of the neo-liberal establishment. This is really bad because this is another advance toward totalitarian fascism. In the Internet Age, wikileaks is as much a part of the press as NY Times. Instead of telling stories, they present pure information that very few doubt to be true. "Most major news organizations" are the enemy of the people. They're not functioning as the 4th Estate and watch dogs. CNN is more focused on Trump's lies than his actions.
+4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-11-18 09:06
I strongly agree with you. This is the final push by these corporate media organizations to push out the "alternative media" that flowered with the rise of the internet. It is a full court press, with web giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter teaming up with the WashPo, NY Times and some frankly fascists think tanks like the Atlantic Council. The FBI, CIA, and State Department are all in this full court press too.

Free exchange of information and our right to know what our tax funded officials are doing are in real jeopardy. Assange and WikiLeaks are major players, but the small ones count too.
+6 # Inspired Citizen 2018-11-17 18:45
I shared this on Facebook page with the following comment. The mass purges on Facebook make this comment an act of rebellion and reason to never see the inside of Facebook again:

These charges are against the "press" in the Internet Age and another step toward totalitarian fascism in our country. These charges are far more outrageous than a White House reporter losing his press pass, but the corporate mass media won't give the implication of these sealed charges against Assange the amount of coverage and analysis of Jim Acosta's revoked pass. That mass media is a huge part of corporate manipulation of public opinions, and the loss of net neutrality has crippled the citizens' ability to reach actual news sites. E-mail networks of networks can flourish even without net neutrality. The revolution will not be televised, but it could arrive in your In-Box. That includes party and/or strategy communications coordinating the revolution on national scale. New Rules on this platform [Facebook] will make movement building and electioneering a reason to purge the activist, if caught, as we understand them. That's also characteristic of either fascism or Zuckerbook, should he throw his hat in the ring for the White House.
+21 # MidwestDick 2018-11-17 19:00
It is amazing how many otherwise sensible people are so eager to throw Assange under the bus.
There is speculation afoot that the charges are part of the Trump Russia thing and I heard some commentary today that Assange, in this case, asked for secret info and is therefore not a journalist but a spy, and deserves what he is going to get.
Well, Trump IS involved and hence sanity will not prevail, but I implore the people so inclined. Don't let your disgust with Trump let you lose sight of your respect for Justice. If you do, how are you better than those who lose it because the love him?

Assange revealed the Manning tapes and with them the perfidy of the American military Juggernaut. He also published the stolen Podesta emails.
If anyone deserves to bed down in stony lonesome, it is those who pretend that the crimes of Podesta were on the same level as the crimes of Bush.

Assange remains a hero of, and, taken all together, a martyr to, press freedom. All who love freedom and justice should defend him.
-3 # Kiwikid 2018-11-18 01:25
Happy to throw him under the bus - in the 'me too' era he needs to face the music in Sweden. If he's manned up on that he may not be in his current situation.
+2 # librarian1984 2018-11-18 15:47
He's been cleared of all charges in Sweden. It's only the US persecuting him now. Almost everyone else recognizes his value as a truthteller.
0 # HarryP 2018-11-18 19:35
Assange hasn't been "cleared of all charges." It's been 8 years since two women first brought the charges. Since, Sweden merely dropped the rape charges. It did not "clear him." He still could be charged for molestation.
"Truthteller?" Either he or the two women aren't telling the truth. Who ya got?
-4 # Kiwikid 2018-11-18 23:52
'Cleared of all charges' - you mean the statute of limitations ran against his accusers and it was no longer worth their effort, or the effort of the Swedish justice system to pursue him. It continues to stagger me how Kavanaugh (I believe Blasey Ford btw) will be pursued as a sexual abuser with such ferocity, yet this darling of the left will be given the benefit of the doubt, even if there is very little. We simply look the other way.
+3 # librarian1984 2018-11-18 07:49
Well said. Progressives, including those here, used to praise Assange as a hero, but he too has been caught up in the anti-Trump fervor.

HE hasn't changed, it's US.

Obama, even though he had no problem going after journalists and whistleblowers, ultimately left Assange alone because of the consequences for journalism, while Trump's Justice Dept. has no such qualms about the greater implications.

I will march for Assange. I don't know that I'd want to spend a holiday with him, personality-wis e, but I admire him immensely, and am grateful for his integrity and courage.

I also pity him, being stuck in one building for years. Maybe we could all chip in a few coins to Mission Impossible him somewhere safe.

Msm using his material and then remaining silent about his persecution only adds to my contempt for them.
+16 # chapdrum 2018-11-17 20:08
A question arises: Who is the greater threat to the U.S.? Trump or Assange?
+1 # logical1 2018-11-18 22:16
Trump is the greater threat to the U S and the world.
Yet we would not have Trump if it was not for Assuange with the emails and Comey with the last minute looking into them again.
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-11-19 14:23
The biggest irony of all is that Trump praised WikiLeaks and Assange during the campaign. Now he may allow his arrest, trial, and imprisonment or execution. There were several approaches to Trump to intervene and pardon Assange in advance of a trail or to stop the DOJ/FBI/CIA efforts to apprehend him. The stories I read were than Trump's aids completely prevented these offers from reaching him.

To your quesion -- Trump is a far greater threat to the US and to the world than Assange who is no threat at all. Actually Assange is a great benefit to the US and to the world.
0 # HarryP 2018-11-18 13:12
Raskolnikov is correct in pointing out that Mueller considers Assange a Russian asset. But hat else would you call him?
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-11-19 11:51
Mueller has a grand theory that the DNC, Podesta, and Hillary campaign emails were hacked by Russian intelligence agents using the fake identity Guiccfer 2.0. Assange was working with them from the start in order to get this material to destroy Hillary. Mueller thinks Assange supported Trump. Assange's link to Trump is Roger Stone.

I don't think any of this can come to trial because Assange really does know who gave all those emails to WikiLeaks and he's said over and over it was not the Russians or anyone connected to Russia. He has strongly hinted the DNC material came from Seth Rich. Seth Rich would be a death blow to Mueller and the FBI which has sabotaged and buried the investigation into his murder.

So I don't see a trial. I see a death in prison -- somehow.

I would call Assange a journalist in the long and great tradition of publishing exposes of government/corp orate corruption, lies, and all manner of misdeeds. This really is the heart of journalism, only it is no longer practiced much in the US. All exposes are now heavily controlled by the ruling elites. The expose their enemies but they themselves are exempt.

I'm not really sure that the WikiLeaks material had that much impact on Hillary's campaign. There were too many other negatives that put her down. It was just a part of a real slew of bad news about Hillary, including her health problems.
+5 # elizabethblock 2018-11-18 15:18
A traitor to the United States?
Impossible. He's not an American citizen. He's an Australian.
0 # HarryP 2018-11-18 19:12
It’s highly possible Assange will not get a fair trial. But he doesn’t need to be charged under the Espionage Act, which has everything to do with suppression of criticism of the government. No need to discuss whether Assange is (or ever was) a journalist. He is a trafficker in stolen property, something Kiriakou acknowledges (but doesn’t tell us who did the stealing.) Assange was the fence, aiding and abetting the thief.

One can defend what Assange did in his past life, he posting of embarrassing government documents. In 2016, however, he became the middle man in the service of a foreign national entity determined to interfere in the presidential election. (Raskolnikov is correct in pointing out that Mueller considers Assange a Russian asset. But hat else would you call him?) Assange gleefully posted the emails belonging to a private entity. Hacking into your neighbor’s computer and posting his emails doesn’t make you a journalist. It makes you a criminal. (Ask Guccifer 1.0.)

There are many things wrong with the American political system, but Putin’s and Assange’s interference will not solve them. All they ever sought was to muck things up (with the ready support of the Trump campaign.) It is the violation of the US election laws (rather than the Espionage act) that Assange has to fear. Mueller knows he’s got the goods on Trump, Assange & Putin conspiring against the United States.
+3 # librarian1984 2018-11-19 21:27
The emails, shown by VIPS to be a leak, not a hack, exposed the Clinton campaign's cheating -- but let's not talk about that.

How is Assange different from publishing the Pentagon Papers? Should they have been persecuted and prosecuted too?

What's truly hypocritical is that WaPo and others published what Wikileaks exposed, and won the Pulitzer Prize for it, now when he's attacked they're mum.

Obama didn't prosecute Assange because it would expose those outlets to prosecution as well -- precisely because he's doing the same thing. Assange didn't ask Manning or anyone else for material. They brought it to him instead of the NYT because people trust him, and he has NEVER had to retract a story.

When you demonize Assange you undermine investigative journalism and play right into the hands of TPTB.
+4 # Salus Populi 2018-11-18 21:58
Caitlin Johnstone in Australia has penned an incisive analysis of the moral bankruptcy of both parties in the Asange case. She, correctly in my opinion, points out that the hatred for Assange on the part of the liberal "McResistance" stems from their unshakeable belief that his publication of the Podesta emails was what cost Hillary Clinton her expected victory in the 2016 election -- a cardinal, rather than venial, sin.

The entire "he deserves it" meme shared by so many of these sandbox sophists rebukes any shred of integrity or principle that one might attribute to them. They could care less about press freedom when it comes to a chance to exact revenge on Wikileaks, even as they smarmily and hypocritically proclaim their outrage at the Trump administration' s contempt for journalism and a free press. 'Rank hypocrisy' doesn't begin to do justice to this cowardly cheerleading: It is rather literally a cutting off of one's nose to spite one's face.

So what if a precedent is set that it is now and forever criminal to publish documents that embarrass the powerful, when those documents are given to a publisher by a whistleblower exactly because their content shows illegality on a grand scale, done in the name of a public that is systematically denied the right to know of what is being done?

The more important, indeed overriding, point is that, while regrettably supporting the totalitarian impulses of Trump, it gets even with Assange.

Pardon me while I puke.
+1 # librarian1984 2018-11-19 21:32
Gee, you must be mistaken. John Brennan and James Clapper, those great bastions of honesty and integrity, those wonderful banners of freedom and liberty, have told the sheep who the enemy is .. baaa baaa.
0 # BetaTheta 2018-11-19 10:35
Whatever good Assange did in the past in revealing the seamy underbelly of American military and government shenanigans, he pretty much negated by letting his ego get in the way and becoming a partisan hit man.
0 # Nancy Jakeman 2018-11-19 11:00
What can I say about Julian Assange and the call for truth and justice? He is like so many who are the victims of terrible misconception. What can we do to assist him? I have been waiting for ANY politician anywhere almost, to speak for his release and delivery from persecution. These are presently DARK DAYS indeed.
+1 # librarian1984 2018-11-19 21:30
There are many here who proclaim they're progressive or liberal or care about freedom of the press -- when they obviously have no clue about what that actually means.

The Clintons have poisoned another well.

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