Joe Lauria explains the latest superseding indictment against Julian Assange, who still faces extradition to the U.S. for his supposed violations of the Espionage Act. Lauria’s take is that the new indictment is simply “window dressing,” meant to make Assange look bad by smearing his reputation in the minds of those who follow the case only from afar—the indictment, it turns out, doesn’t even contain any new charges. All along, the name of the game has been trying to make Assange out to be not a publisher of information he received from others, but an actual accomplice in the hacking of those secrets in the first place. Anyone who has been following Assange’s story closely from the beginning knows that this claim is completely untrue; what Assange does is no different than what any other investigative journalist does, except that he’s much better at it. If the American government can successfully extradite and convict Assange on these Espionage Act charges, says Lauria, they must do the same for the editors of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and every other mainstream media outlet in the country.
Discussed on the show:
- “ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Assange Hit With New Superseding Indictment, Reflecting Possible FBI Sting Operation” (Consortium News)
- “25 YEARS OF CN: ‘Journalists Are All Julian Assange’—Robert Parry, December 16, 2010” (Consortium News)
- Collateral Murder
- “Military Fails to Link Leaks With Any Deaths” (Courthouse News)
- “State Department Cables” (WikiLeaks)
- “Iraq War Logs” (WikiLeaks)
- “Afghan War Diary” (WikiLeaks)
- “In letter to the Lancet, doctors condemn torture of Assange and demand his release” (World Socialist Web Site)
Joe Lauria is the editor-in-chief at Consortium News. He is a former UN correspondent and wrote at the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @unjoe.
This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: NoDev NoOps NoIT, by Hussein Badakhchani; The War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.com; Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom; ExpandDesigns.com/Scott; Listen and Think Audio; TheBumperSticker.com; and LibertyStickers.com.
The following is an automatically generated transcript.
Scott Horton 0:10
All right, y’all welcome it’s Scott Horton Show. I am the director of the Libertarian Institute editorial director of antiwar.com, author of the book Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan. And I’ve recorded more than 5000 interviews going back to 2003, all of which are available at ScottHorton.org. You can also sign up to the podcast feed. The full archive is also available at youtube.com/ScottHortonShow. All right, you guys on the line, I’ve got the great Joe Lauria. He is the editor of consortium news.com. And he’s got such an important piece here. Assange hit with new superseding indictment spit, reflecting possible FBI sting operation Yeah, who would have thought that Welcome back to the show. Joe. How are you sir?
Joe Lauria 0:58
Thank you, Scott. I’m fine. Good to talk. Again,
Scott Horton 1:00
yeah, for those not familiar, the hero, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, was published such great information over the years already has been indicted. He’s in custody in England. And but he’s been indicted in the United States over skipping bail on a fake charge. But he’s already indicted in the United States on Espionage Act charges. They’re saying he’s not a publisher like the New York Times, but he’s a co conspirator in getting the leak. With then Bradley now Chelsea Manning back in 2010, the Iraq War Logs, Guantanamo files, Afghan War Logs and State Department cables there, and all of which are still firstname.lastname@example.org. And so this is already a huge problem, obviously, but now a superseding indictment which has all kinds of new accusations, but primarily, I think, you helped me Tell me if I’m wrong Hear Joe. It sounds like it’s basically the same accusations again, that rather than being a publisher, he is a co conspirator. This time with labels sec. And anonymous in pilfering certain documents from certain places. Please Do tell.
Joe Lauria 2:16
Yeah, well, the most important thing to understand is there are no new charges in this superseding time. So there’s a lot of window dressing. There’s a lot of stuff that is in there that is accusing him of this, that and the other thing, none of which are against the law or that he’s not been charged for just a quick example. They just threw in there that Assange helped Edward Snowden escaped from Hong Kong. This is already well known, and that he used diversionary tactics such as booking Snowden on several flights that he wasn’t going on except the one that they had hoped to get them on. Or they did get on get him on from Hong Kong and then they were trying to get him on to Latin America. He was not to stay in Moscow. Why is that in this indictment? The Super ceiling and diamond because the purpose of this superseding indictment appears to be clearly to further smear Julian Assange, right in there with the false rape accusations. Three times Sweden dropped them. He was never charged with rape. Sweden would not come to London to interview him because of pressure from the British Crown Prosecution Service. Yet many people’s minds mostly Democrats, he’s a rapist. And they got he helped. He helped Trump defeat Clinton. So this is more piling on against Assange. It comes after. I don’t know if this is linked. I really don’t but they probably had this thing waiting. But there’s a movement growing in Australia, where I am. There was a 60 minutes program on here 60 minutes CBS 60 minutes. There’s a Australian version of that they interviewed Assange his partner Stella, Maurice, the mother of his two children. And it was an incredibly sympathetic and understanding and factual account of a Sunday situation. Very rare. See in the mainstream media and the next day, the Melbourne city council voted a resolution in favor of Assange asking for him to be brought back to Australia. So this is an attempt to make Assange look to look out look to be as though he were a hacker, not a journalist. This is key to the government, US government’s strategy, because if he’s a journalist, if he did, what the New York Times and The Spiegel and the Guardian did, which partnered with Assange on the very leaks and the various stories that are the subject of his first espionage, indictment, then they’d have to indict The New York Times as well. And the guardian and the Spiegel because Assange is not an American. He’s on foreign soil, because the Espionage Act allows us universality of prosecution.
Scott Horton 4:50
Well, isn’t that funny right there that the Justice Department’s idea is that well, you know, if Wikileaks gave stuff to the New York Times, The New York Times published it of course that’s protected. But well Wikileaks publishing it. No, of course not because they’re a co conspirator rather than a publisher.
Joe Lauria 5:07
Well, exactly, because if he’s not a journalist, and he’s something else, what is he that? Well, they’re trying to make him out to be a hacker. And this is what this superseding indictment tries to reinforce this idea that he worked with hackers. He didn’t pay them to work for him that he instructed them and directed him. It turns out, two of these hackers were FBI informants, which raises the possibility this was a sting operation all along, which led the interior minister of Iceland at the time to prevent a plane load. I don’t know many of FBI agents coming to Iceland to try to convince the Icelandic government to work with them on this thing against Julian Assange. And because he’d worked in Iceland at the time, and he kicked them out the the, the interior minister time that would not allow the FBI to enter the country because he suspected this was going on. Well, this of course, is not spelled out in this superseding a diamond would spell out is how Assange was speaking openly and various hacker conferences, saying this is what Wikileaks would like to have. And could you try to get it for us? Now, Robert Perry, who founded the website that I’m the editor in chief of right now, in December of 2010, wrote an incredibly prescient article, in which he said that every journalist is Julian Assange, because what exactly what Assange is doing is what he did not Bob, of course, was one of the best investigative reporters of this generation having broken the some of the major your unconscious stories such as the identity of Oliver North and his role in that scandal. So Bob was saying that he often worked with sources who he encouraged to give more information, but also even to break the law if necessary, to leak something that could prevent a larger crime from being committed. And that one could say is what happened with the Collateral Murder video Well,
Scott Horton 6:56
and especially by the way, I mean, to break the law in This case means to leak anything. I mean, every one of these employees is bound by, right.
Joe Lauria 7:06
Yeah, including the senior intelligence officials who leaked stuff to the new york times in the Washington. Right.
Scott Horton 7:11
But the point being he’s when you say, when you when you’re quoting Bob telling them to break the law, he’s not saying to hurt anyone or commit any crimes. He’s saying, to break the law, their secrecy agreement has the force of law because they’re government employees, and they could go to prison for leaking. And so that’s what you’re talking about there, just to be clear, right?
Joe Lauria 7:32
Absolutely, just to break their non disclosure agreement that they had signed. And also, in this case, maybe there are two crimes that are being committed because in Bob’s case, it was just speaking to government officials to leak something, which would have been the crime of giving on unauthorized disclosure. But in the Assange case, it’s also asking them to hack to get the material to then give to him. So two crimes, but Assange is never accused of directly being involved in hacking if you read the this proceeding, and Diamond, or the first in diamond, which was a computer intrusion carefully, he’s not accused of really being a hacker. But working with hackers. Okay. That’s journalism, as far as I’m concerned as far as Bob Perry was concerned. So this
Scott Horton 8:13
new superseding indictment for all this stuff, saying two points here, they’re saying that, essentially, what they’re accusing him of doing with lowsec and anonymous here in cajoling them or whatever the term is, working with them, assigning them certain things to get or whatever that level of cooperation, that they’re really not describing the level of cooperation that you would see as fundamentally different in any way, then is already described about him working with Manning and asking man, I sure would like to get this or to get that is that right? And then the second thing is, there’s no new charges here, the wall sec and the anonymous stuff, don’t it’s The same old charges, they’re just essentially adding this on, like the 12 page report on our T on the intelligence report here just to make it look thicker.
Joe Lauria 9:10
Yeah. It’s window dressing as john Kiriakou called it just pad the indictment, the Espionage Act indictment. It’s got huge amounts of paragraphs there about how he endangered the lives of informants. Now, it turns out that Mark Davis, an Australian journalist who was there at the time in the bunker at The Guardian in London, when they were working on this, he finally came out 10 years later, and that was only last year to say that, in fact, it was the other way around that the Guardian editors in New York Times didn’t give really didn’t give much of a damn about naming and formats, but it was Assange that worked overnight from Friday into Saturday to purge as many names as he could. before publication on Monday. Davis also pointed out that the New York Times tried to trick Assange they were supposed to publish first and then this week leaks was going to put Their material on their own website. But in fact, the times were held back and they were trying to get Wikileaks to publish first because they were worried, you see, then the times could make it look like they’re on scoop, but at the same time, weekly said published at first. So I don’t really know if this is true or not, but we suddenly had a technical problem and couldn’t get it up on time. So the times did publish first. But the issue is that I’m making here the point I’m making here is that it is, as far as I know, I’ve not found any statute that makes it illegal to unmask the name of an informant of the government. Certainly from the Valerie plam case, it’s illegal to to uncover the name of a undercover CIA agent. But as far as informants go, there’s no statute that is named in that indictment yesterday, that specifically applies to naming informants. It’s all from the Espionage Act. And I have studied that Espionage Act and there’s nothing in there about revealing names of informants. So let’s say he didn’t really actually name these forms or did something As much as he could to redact them, the whole good part of that first indictment is that he endangered lives. And then there was a study by Professor Robert Gerard General, Robert Carr, they looked into at the Pentagon, they spent a lot of money and time and they discovered zero people who had been killed because of the release of those documents
Scott Horton 11:19
emitted that Manning’s court martial.
Joe Lauria 11:22
They did. That’s exactly right. So that’s window dressing where you just pile stuff into there as a PR operation, which is what indictments often are when you don’t really have solid evidence, and they don’t have solid evidence, the only thing they’ve got they have him on a technicality that he did Yes, possess and disseminate classified information and he wasn’t authorized to do it. But if I if I were you or one of your listeners, retweets or emails a week of the document to someone and that’s still considered classified by the government, they’ve also broken the Espionage Act. That’s how absurdly broad it is. That’s all they really got him on. And that’s not really enough because that can be challenged as unconstitutional. It’s
Scott Horton 12:03
gotten away with processing that, even since the Wilson years ever,
Joe Lauria 12:07
never tried that in Woodrow Wilson’s time they did prosecute journals, but for trying to interfere with the draft, not about possession, dissemination, and FDR tried to do it. And then Nixon tried to do it within the Pentagon Papers case. He actually in power panel, the grand jury in Boston, to go against the New York Times report is written on the Pentagon Papers. But in the last minute, when it was discovered that that Ellsberg office had been bugged, and they had broken into a psychiatrist’s office, the two reporters who hadn’t recruited Schmidt and Neil Sheehan, ask the government have we been up to since you bought Ellsberg phone you probably heard us too. They dropped the case. So when Obama went right up to the line and decided we couldn’t do it, because we’d have to also indict The New York Times because they realized that this this part of the Espionage Act that I just referred to about possession and dissemination, so weak, it goes up against it first, remember that if challenged in a way Supreme Court it could be struck down as unconstitutional now
Scott Horton 13:03
slow down on that. So down on that last part there, Joe. I mean, that’s really important that Barack Obama, who prosecuted more sources for journalists than any other president, all the other presidents combined under the Espionage Act, wanted badly to indict Assange. And his lawyer said, we just can’t or then we’d have to indict James Ryan, who by now because of his Russia truth or ism belongs in prison.
Joe Lauria 13:29
Well, he certainly on the establishment side, in that regard, yes. But that’s exactly what the Obama administration wanted true, but could not the context in which Bob Perry wrote the piece I referred to earlier, that he saw exactly what the gun was trying to do. And so that’s what journalists do. And they tried to pretend that the other journalists that were mainstream journals are safe, but they really can’t get away with it. And that was before the Obama administration pullback and then they did, but here’s the Trump administration, and their famous war with the press and and I think it’s really Really not Trump at all. It’s this is Mike Pompeo, its fingerprints all over this first speech he gave CIA director was to call wiki leaks, a non state hostile intelligence agency. And that’s because vault seven, the largest leak of CIA material had just been released. And this is
Scott Horton 14:15
just absolutely, by the way, a completely made up ridiculous thing that does not exist. It’s not an intelligence agency if it’s not an intelligence agency.
Joe Lauria 14:25
Yeah. Well, what’s the difference between a reporter and an intelligence agent, both of them are seeking information, secret information. If the journalist gets it, he wants to make it public. If the agent if an intelligence agent gets it, he’s going to keep it secret for the state that he works for. That’s the main difference. And they of course, have much more means that journalists can employ to get information bribery, blackmail, threats, etc. And they could also the government could also subpoena people and reporters cannot. So that is exactly what why Assange as a journalist because he made it public.
Scott Horton 14:58
so let me try to nail something down here. For years, you were a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. And I think what Christian Science Monitor too, right?
Joe Lauria 16:31
No, but boston
Scott Horton 16:32
globe? Oh, Boston Globe. I’m sorry. It’s been a while. Um, but and I know you wrote for the times in London as well. And so I mean, can you tell us that specifically, you have told government employees sources in meetings or on the phone? Listen, yes, ob Give me that document. I want to see it. And therefore, you know, essentially in a way that makes you absolutely no different than what Assange is accused of doing here.
Joe Lauria 17:00
I cannot remember, I never worked. I worked as an investigative reporter for the insight team at the Sunday Times of London. And I remember on working on a big 911 piece just months after 911 I don’t remember specifically asking that. But I did speak to people who had classified stuff that may have given it to me. So I mean, I don’t remember saying to them, Look, commit this crime doesn’t matter. But I wasn’t really doing the kind of investigative report about Perry was I must cover the United Nations for 25 years. So I was, and there’s plenty of spooks over there. I could tell you that in New York, but I did not. I did not do it in that way. But Bob Perry was uniquely positioned to make this comment because he did do that and he was able to speak from his own experience having done it numerous times. And he was saying this is what Assange is doing whether you like the guy personally or not you know cares about his personality he he’s he’s doing what reporters have to do. And as Bob said at one point the the rules of the game were always traditional rule was the government. Hi things and the reporter tries to find them. That was the game. But we’re in a different era. Now. We’re in a really ugly time by this indictment amongst all the other horrible things that are going on. But we’ve seen the government of the United States and with collusion or the British government, framing really, and stitching up a reporter, who was not a traditional reporter, the journalism has changed. This is internet journalism. And he didn’t go to Columbia Journalism School, but believe me, you don’t have to go to Columbia Journalism School to be a real good journalist. And he published raw material, but there was analysis. And Assange gave many interviews and wrote articles. He understood what he was reporting. With these documents. He is not some clerk who just got material and then put it out on the internet. He understood the material and they vetted it all and it was all accurate. So he’s certainly a different kind of journalists, but in many ways, a better journalist and a lot of the mainstream people and as john pillages also often pointed out, there’s a bit of jealousy here, of reporters from entry papers would Didn’t get the scoops that Assange did. That’s also an element.
Scott Horton 19:03
Well, not just that they didn’t get the scoops, but that the information that he revealed showed them to be not journalists at all, but wasted their lives being meinem birds for the state, particularly on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Joe Lauria 19:19
Oh, yeah, without question, and Stooges for intelligence agencies to allow themselves to be used to launder disinformation, through the mainstream press, if public is more likely to believe something if it’s reported the New York Times and if the CIA says it directly. So it’s a disgusting role that the mainstream and national security reporters in general play and Assange couldn’t stand these people. And that was one of the reasons why there was such personal conflict between the reporters especially at The Guardian, and the editors at The Guardian and Assange because he didn’t have a lot of spectrum but he knew he needed the big media to amplify what he had found what he had gotten what people had given him. And don’t forget, Chelsea Manning was First the Washington Post and the New York Times with her leaks and they never returned to Kohl’s. So Politico, too. She went to WikiLeaks and political rights, right? Yeah,
Scott Horton 20:08
totally ignored. And imagine that you’re the New York Times. And you got an army. Somebody’s going, man, I got the mother lode of secret level documents for you about all the wars and you just say, no, that’s not the business. We’re in here at The New York Times.
Joe Lauria 20:22
And they wound up having to partner with Wikileaks to publish it. And I think they right ended that. And by the way, downplay it
Scott Horton 20:28
yet. Let me just say real quick if people are just notice if you search it, search for the phrase, as revealed by WikiLeaks documents, or as shown in the State Department cables or something like that, and especially if you add Iraq and Afghan War Logs to your searches, you’ll see there probably 10,000 news stories that have come out of those documents so far, or at least you know, one detail on a news story that well it is confirmed in the WikiLeaks set back in oh nine etc etc. And just this has been the absolute mother lode for Good journalism, truth that the American people and the people the world, as Manning said, then deserve to know. Simple as that. But now I got to give you the last word about Assange his situation locked in a cage like an animal in Great Britain.
Joe Lauria 21:13
Yeah. his extradition hearing as resumption of it isn’t put off till September 7 because of the virus. They don’t have a courtroom yet exactly won’t be in London. And it’s going to go on for three weeks. And that’s when it’s going to probably be determined whether Britain extradite seminar, there’s been a huge effort. 216 doctors have just sent a letter to the Secretary of State for justice in Britain and published a letter in The Lancet, premier British Medical Journal, saying that he needs to be released. He’s in danger of not only COVID but he’s other underlying problems physically that he’s had for years, including a lung ailment. So there’s pressure building, but when it comes down to it, you have to be very optimistic think that they won’t find a way to extradite join us Launched Alexandria, Virginia, in the end of the day, the the great argument that his defense team has is that the treaty between Britain and the United States says that no one could be extradited for a political offense. This clearly a political fence that could demonstrate that in numerous ways, but there was also an act that took place, the British extradition act that came out before that, that does not says nothing about political crime. So they prosecution is trying to rely on the act defense on the treaty. And let’s hope that they make the right decision. But the kind of pressure the United States is bringing to bear on Britain and the British intelligence services have their own interests and getting Assange as well. So this is revenge against the guy who did really good journalism to expose corruption and criminality of the state. But of course, it’s only the enemy states of the US that commit these things. We’re the good guys. I mean, this is what he’s challenging Assange, that we aren’t the good guys and I think people are waking up to a lot of stuff the public if they were given the story By the main media, the mainstream media would be on his side, but they aren’t. It’s distorted because the mainstream media is in the service of the establishment and of the state, as you pointed out. So hopefully, we’ll see something coming out in September. That might be good. It’ll be a great presentation, I think, by the defense, but we have to think that he probably will be extradited to the US, but one never knows. Yeah.
Scott Horton 23:24
Well, it’ll be a great test for whether there’s such a thing as the rule of law in England, or just the rule of men and their politics and their will, like usual, a great test case for that. And I’m certainly very pessimistic, but then again, I actually think there’s half a chance that if it was, well, if he is extradited, he’ll almost certainly be convicted in Virginia, but then I got half a mind that the Supreme Court would spring them loose anyway, at the end of the day, but you know, if he didn’t die in prison by then,
Joe Lauria 23:56
well, if they could get that part of the Espionage Act overturned is unconstant There’s a chance there’s also a chance if you got a jury trial, but he probably won’t get a jury trial, that they can nullify this realizing that this is not a this law is not constitutional itself.
Scott Horton 24:11
He gets a jury trial. It’ll be all government employees in Alexandria, allegedly. So
Joe Lauria 24:15
that’s the problem. Exactly. Exactly.
Scott Horton 24:18
All right. And now I’m sorry, give us one more word about Chelsea Manning, too, because she is sitting in jail for a year on contempt for refusing to testify against Assange, and was only just recently released a couple of months ago after attempting suicide again. So I was wondering, you know, the latest on how Manning is doing here?
Joe Lauria 24:37
No, I don’t, I don’t, but I do know that they didn’t rely on her testimony because she didn’t give any for this superseding indictment. It was a lot of speculation why they were holding it was there going to be another indictment coming out there is but there’s no new charges as we said. So she’s free. And I want to point out
Scott Horton 24:55
extra vengeance and punishment. There’s all at once. Hmm.
Joe Lauria 24:58
Oh, that was definitely part of that. I think Question cuz a lot of people republicans in particular upset with Obama for commuting or sentence but I was in the courtroom and the Willetts Crown Court, which is on the campus of the Belmarsh prison for one of the days of testimony and the lawyers for Assange pointed out something extraordinary that the indictment the first exam, which is repeated in this one, by the way, exactly word for word, it’s most of this is not just a repeat of the of the existing indictments said that Assange had helped her break a crack a password to get into a government computer. First of all, it does say in that indictment that she had legal access to that computer. So it was only to get her to get an administrative password to hide her identity, which is nothing Bob Paris said he did all the time because of course, you have to help hide the identity of your of your anonymous sources that I’ve had a lot of experiences with. But it turned out that the lawyers claim and I don’t think they would in open court if it weren’t if they didn’t have anything to back it up with that. Assange was helping a break this great Get into this computer under an administrative name. So she could download music videos and computer games. Why? Because they’re forbidden for us personnel serving to have you’re not allowed to download music videos and video games. So she that’s all she was doing. It’s absurd think a lot of attention. But that’s repeated again. This is what he was supposed to be doing breaking the law by helping her Yeah, get a password that good get into an administrative under IT administrators name. This a very weak indictment This doesn’t do anything but it does feed those people who are already predisposed against Assange to make them look like a dirty hacker, not a journalist and the undermine the security of the United States, you actually undermine the security of the careers of people in the Pentagon and in the intelligence services, and in the White House, and Congress supported these ugly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that’s why they Gotta get him. Yep.
Scott Horton 27:01
All right. Well, listen, man, I’m sorry. Gotta let you go here because I got more questions, but we’ll do it again soon. And catch. Okay, maybe we’ll have some good news to report someday here. Hopefully. All right, thank you very much for your time Joe for shopping again. Aren’t you guys that is the great Joe Lauria. He is the editor in chief at consortiumnews.com. And go read this important piece, Assange extradition. Assange hit with new superseding indictment, reflecting possible FBI sting operation. We didn’t focus so much on that angle in this interview, but it’s in there. The Scott Horton show, Antiwar Radio can be heard on kpfk 90.7 FM in LA, APSradio.com antiwar.com ScottHorton.org and libertarianinstitute.org