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Kiriakou writes: "The Justice Department said Thursday that it was charging Julian Assange with one felony count of conspiring to hack into a computer. In the greater scheme of things, that's a nonsensical charge. There are probably 10,000 fat, lonely guys, living in their parents' basements who the government could charge with that crime on any given day."

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

The Railroad That Awaits Julian Assange

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

13 April 19


he Justice Department said Thursday that it was charging Julian Assange with one felony count of conspiring to hack into a computer. In the greater scheme of things, that’s a nonsensical charge. There are probably 10,000 fat, lonely guys, living in their parents’ basements who the government could charge with that crime on any given day.  

Assange’s attorneys in the UK say the extradition process might last five years because it will likely end up in the European Court of Justice. If true, conceivably Assange could be detained for five years awaiting extradition, or roughly the same amount of time he might be sentenced to if convicted on the computer hacking charge.  

Justice Department policy defines time in detention under almost any circumstance as time served. So if there ever were a trial in the US for the computer hacking charge it would likely be nothing more than a show trial.

Additional charges after the application for extradition has been filed are unlikely, due to limitations in extradition treaties requiring full disclosure of all charges prior to an extradition being considered. But that’s not the issue here.   

No matter what happens, no matter what the charges, Julian cannot and will not get a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Eastern District of Virginia is known as the “Espionage Court” for a reason. No national security defendant has ever won a case there. Never. And Judge Leonie Brinkema reserves all national security cases for herself. She has Julian’s case, she judged my case, as well as the case of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, and we know that she has also reserved what will be the Ed Snowden case for herself.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll tell you about what I went through in Judge Brinkema’s courtroom. None of it was good. And Julian should expect exactly the same.

When I was arrested after blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program, I was charged with five felonies – three counts of espionage, one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1981, and one count of making a false statement. Of course, I hadn’t committed espionage, nor had I made any false statement. (I’m still not exactly sure what the false statement was supposed to have been.) But those charges were used as leverage to eventually force me to take a plea. When I said that I wasn’t interested in a plea and that I wanted to go to trial, the prosecutors threatened to add a second false statements charge and a charge of obstruction of justice – two throwaway felonies that could be used as additional leverage. I told them to bring it on, but they never did add those charges.

The government will invoke something in Julian’s case called CIPA – the Classified Information Protection Act. That means that the court must do everything possible to “protect” classified information from being revealed, even to the jury. The first thing that’s done in a CIPA trial is that the courtroom is sealed. The only people allowed inside are the defendant and the defendant’s attorneys, the prosecutors, the bailiff, the clerk, and the judge. The jury also would be there in the event of a jury trial, but it gets a little more complicated in that case. The bailiff will lock the courtroom doors and put tape around them, and he’ll cover the windows with plastic or canvas, all so that nobody outside can hear anything.

If there’s a jury trial, the judge will insist that “classified” words or phrases not be uttered, but instead must be replaced by unclassified words. For example, “Did you hack into NSA’s computers and download documents from Operation Widget?” becomes “Did you hack into Castle’s computers and download documents from Operation Pilates?” It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Well, it is ridiculous. More importantly, it’s very confusing for jurors, many of whom may conclude, “Wow, there are so many classified words that are being discussed! He must be guilty!”

Julian’s attorneys also will make a number of motions, both for discovery and for the declassification of documents necessary for his defense. Judge Brinkema is unlikely to approve any of them. Again, in my case, my attorneys made 70 motions to declassify 70 separate classified documents necessary for my defense. We blocked off two full days for the hearings, as did the prosecutors. But when we got to the courtroom, Judge Brinkema began by saying, “I’m going to make this easy for everyone. I’m going to deny all 70 of these motions.” Her thinking was that I either did it (committed a crime) or I didn’t. There was no reason to “jeopardize national security” if she was going to eventually convict me anyway. So my attorneys had literally nothing to present in my defense.

We didn’t roll over, of course. My attorneys objected and were overruled. The prosecution then asked for an in-camera conversation with the judge. That’s a private conversation between the judge and the prosecutors without my attorneys present. My attorneys objected strenuously. The judge overruled them again and she went into chambers with prosecutors. As crazily unconstitutional as this may sound, it is permitted in a national security case. To this day I have no idea what was said in that room. But when she came out, the judge looked at my attorneys and reiterated her decision to overrule the objection. And then, much to my shock, she looked at me and said, “This case better not go to trial.” The hearing ended. It had begun only 15 minutes earlier.

As we walked out of the courtroom, I asked my attorneys, “What just happened in there?” “We just lost the case,” was the response. “What do we do now?” I asked. “Now we take a plea.” A week later I changed my plea to “guilty.” The government had come down from an offer of 10 years to one of two-and-a-half. I would do 23 months. My attorneys thought that if I had gone to trial, I would have lost and I would have realistically gotten 12-18 years. I had no choice.

At sentencing, the judge said that she was glad the case hadn’t gone to trial. She didn’t want “more classified information out there in the public domain.” But then she said, “I don’t like this deal. I don’t like it at all. If I could, Mr. Kiriakou, I would give you 10 years. But my hands are tied.” I left for federal prison six weeks later.

Julian is likely in for the same kind of treatment. There no justice to be found at the Justice Department. There’s only punishment for unpopular opinions and actions. Julian has a great soapbox now. The stakes are high, but he has to defend his actions and talk about the freedoms of speech and the press that are so basic and important to the survival of our country. The Justice Department may have finally bitten off more than it can chew. We can only hope.

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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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+41 # laborequalswealth 2019-04-13 09:47
Sad that I am the first to comment on this article. The CIA-controlled media has virtually ignored what is the greatest threat to journalism in our lifetime.

The chilling effect of just Assange's ARREST will be deadly to the truth. Who will risk federal indictment and life in prison to expose the corruption of our government when the public has demonstrated that it doesn't care anyway? People should be outraged by this, and yet most of them don't even know who Assange is.

Even so-called "progressive" outlets like Alternet have barely mentioned Assange. The first article opined that Assange was "no hero" - because he exposed the utter corruption of the DNC by Killary. NO mention of his outted crime after crime committed by our "leaders." Today there is ONE article on Alternet about Assange - about the 12th on the page. It is by Chris Hedges, another truth-teller who can no longer get a hearing on the "mainstream." But first there are 4 or 5 headlines with "Trump" in them.

Thus lies will continue to prevail. The "media" will call it "truth" and crucify anyone daring to expose their lies, frauds and corruptions. How precient Orwell was.

Bottom line: Go to The Real News. Go to RT (yes - Russian Television. Go for the information provided and then judge for yourself who is telling the truth.) Stop listening to liars.
+37 # 2019-04-13 10:59
I reread what you went through every-time you write it - it is so antithetical to our values and ethical judicial practices, it is still a shock each time. Can't someone remove that Judge? This is outrageous. Everyone, Julian included, deserves a fair trial. Thank you again. I hate knowing that that happened to you, and to the others punished massively for trying to hold that bar for the World's humanity and decency, and what is right, and for that Beacon America must be ... If not us, who? I protest in Miami if anyone wants to join me -- protest wherever you are, before it might be too late.
+32 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-04-13 12:06
I don't think it will matter what Assange is charged with. The US will get him very soon and it will keep him in prison forever. Very likely he will never get a trial. As Judge Brinkema told Kiriakou, "And then, much to my shock, she looked at me and said, “This case better not go to trial.”

She will do the same to Assange. A trial means he can present evidence, defend himself, and cite legal precedents. None of that will be allowed in Brinkema's court. She will find a way to sentence him without a trial.

Assange is a political prisoner. The US regime simply wants him in solitary confinement for life. He is in the same category was Mumia Abu Jamal or Leonard Peltier. Their cases have been proved fraudulent over and over and yet they remain locked up. The same will happen with Assange.

Assange is not even a US citizen. I don't see the DOJ or courts treating him as anything other than what Pompeo said -- "It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia." In other words, the US regime considers Assange an enemy combatant in a war that never ends.

The solution to this is the 2020 presidential election. We should make this a campaign issue. Only candidates who pledge to release Assange on the first day in office will get our votes. Ironically, this will be called "obstruction of justice" by right wing democrats and republicans. It's not. It is obstruction of injustice.
+42 # elizabethblock 2019-04-13 12:08
The first-amendment lawyer who defended the New York Times in 1971 spoke this morning on the CBC. He said there are journalists who are NOT defending Julian Assange. Why not? They don't like him.
OK, he's not a likeable man. But if you don't defend the rights of people you don't like, you don't defend the rights of anyone. Period. Including your own rights.
+12 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-04-14 06:38
eb -- "But if you don't defend the rights of people you don't like, you don't defend the rights of anyone. "

I agree with this entirely. It is the foundation of both the rule of law and of moral conscience.

The ironic part is that corporate journalists don't like him because they know they have sold out and are not much more than lackeys for the national security state. They hate Assange because of what they are!
+33 # The Eternal Optimist 2019-04-13 12:34
We have a choice. We can assume that our government never does anything seriously wrong or that if they did they'd hasten to tell us (the voting public in a democracy) about it and immediately make amends. Or we can trust the clear lesson from history that our government, like all governments, does indeed do things that are wrong and extremely harmful, that they do them often, and that they make every effort to cover them up

Fortunately, there are courageous souls who are in a position to know about these things and who feel that we the people should know about them too. They are the whistleblowers, and we should treasure them for the heroic and very necessary service that they perform. The latest of these to be in the news as our government seeks to persecute him is Julian Assange (and, of course, Chelsea Manning again). We should do everything in our power to get our elected representatives to show even a fraction of the courage and sense of duty that Assange has shown (and Chelsea, and so many others) and to see to it that his persecution is stopped immediately. Then we should give him the Medal of Freedom.
+37 # tedrey 2019-04-13 12:36
Judge Brinkema's should, of course, automatically recuse herself. Her whole career is based upon an unyielding refusal to even consider (or to allow to be considered) certain evidence that most other judges consider at least relevant. That is why, whatever jurisdiction a whistleblower case might be presumed to fall under, the government always gives her a monopoly of all such cases which could hamper or embarrass them. That is why to recuse a case for conflict of interest is inconceivable to her. She is an essential cog in a totalitarian system. She has built her whole career on a permanent conflict of interest.
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-04-14 08:47
Craig Murray has a very good article on the "trial" Assange got in London for his bail jumping charge --

"Chelsea and Julian are in Jail. History Trembles. "

The judge who presided over the bail jumping trial only lectured Assange for 15 minutes and then pronounced him "guilty." Assange was not allowed to speak in his defense; he only could say "not guilty," and once he interrupted the judge to ask why the charges had changed half way through the proceeding.

Murray is outraged at this performance by Judge Snow. Clearly the fix was in before Assange even appeared in court, just a few hours after he was abducted from the embassy.

Assange will get the same treatment in the US. He won't be allowed to put up a defense, just as Kiriakou was not.

We all used to think that we had a constitutional right to a fair and impartial trial before a jury of our peers when accused of a crime. No more. In Judge Brinkema's court, you have no such right. You will plead guilty to whatever you are charged with and she will sentence you to prison -- just like they did back in the middle ages.

Such judges should be impeached and themselves put on trial for violating people's constitutional rights. But congress would have to impeach and I don't see congress ever doing that. Congress is as afraid of the national security state as judges are.
+17 # Torvus 2019-04-13 13:43
So the smears continue on Mr Assange, misdirecting our attention from governmental coverups. If Assange is extradited to the US, then the country that does so (UK or maybe Sweden) admits that it condones cover-ups and punishes whistle-blowers ; such a country, by implication, admits it has much to cover up itself. So - brave investigative journalists - keep digging, and get the info to the public any way you can. We're sick to death of political, military and industrial corruption - we know that not a half of it is exposed.
-6 # Robbee 2019-04-13 13:57
The Railroad That Awaits Julian Assange
John Kiriakou, RSN
13 April 19

- i will raise statues to snowden and manning!

i will not raise statues to ja! putin! or dickhead!

i am not confilcted!

i thank ja for revealing duplicity targeting bernie's campaign by the d n c !

yet i despise ja for selling out to putin! and dickhead!

releasing the duplicity sequentially! every other day! throughout the general election!

to elect dickhead!

sorry john! ja sold us out! to dictators!

those statues to ja! to putin! comey! and dickhead! - let repukes erect them! - sorry! - that's their pantheon! not mine!

dickhead is "transactional! " a back-stabber! - his test of friendship is "what have you done for me lately?" - unless ja! is putin's wholly-owned! loyal! selective! leaker! for dickhead's cause! "YOU'RE FIRED!"

but if dickhead is honest? or grateful? for past loyalty? dickhead will fete ja? and pardon ja? wait and see? stay tuned? the fat man hasn't yet sung? - for now? dickhead's leading with? "what wikileaks? never heard of it?"

ja! is an organ-grinder! late media mogul of dickhead's propaganda campaign! - ja's tune has worn-out my ears! i no longer care to hear this same musac forever! - it's so! well! 2016! sorry!

ja! putin! and dickhead! - THESE ARE NOT MY HEROES!

moreover some free speech! i cherish! - yet somehow! i will not die! to defend! zuckerberg's or ja's or putin's right to elect dickhead! - i draw my personal "bright line!"
+6 # maindrains 2019-04-13 16:57
Obviously Assange had become a pain in the butt to The Ecuadorians.. but if you had to stay in a room for 7 years wouldn't you start to go a little crazy? I have little hope that he will receive justice and the fact tjhat all journalists are not sticking up for him and press freedom because "they don't like him" shows a Trumpification of the media.
+10 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-04-14 08:43
main -- the correct thing for the Ecuadorans to do would have been to consult with Assange and his lawyers so that they could make arrangements for his asylum to be picked up by another nation. From what I read, they did not talk to him about his. He had only rumors of what was to happen. It may have been that a big nations like Russia would have taken Assange. Russia is big enough to tell the UK that it was flying Assange out of England under military support. If the Brits interfered with their diplomatic privileges, then the Brits would be bombed back to the stone age.

But we also know that Moreno got a $4.5 billion loan from the IMF guaranteed by Pence. And Pence agreed to give Ecuador trade privileges. So Moreno sold Assange for his 30 pieces of silver or its equivalent in 2019 dollars.
+18 # lorenbliss 2019-04-13 18:23
Note that Brinkema is a Bill Clinton appointee. That plus her record -- the essence of which is "all power to the Neoliberal aristocracy" -- tells us everything we need to know to recognize the fix is in.
+3 # DaveO_Alaska 2019-04-15 14:03
Thank you again, John.
I'm so glad to know there are "good-guys" like you and your fellow VIPS members standing and setting such a good example by word and deed.
It's a singular honor to know I am doing what I can by my own minor means to spread the truths you and yours bring.

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