Julian Assange Is An Absolute Piece Of Sh*t. And Now You Have To Defend Him.
We want to say right here at the outset that we hate Julian Assange. Aside from the sexual assault allegations against him, and aside from the fact that he's just a generally stinky and loathsome person who reportedly smeared poop on the walls at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, while reportedly not taking care of his cat, an innocent creature, he acted as Russia's handmaiden during the 2016 election, in order to further Russia's campaign to steal it for Donald Trump. All signs point to his campaign being a success!
So we are justifiably happy when bad things happen to Julian Assange. We are happy his name is shit the world over, and that any reputation WikiLeaks used to have for being on the side of freedom and transparency has been stuffed down the toilet where it belongs. We are happy he looked like such a sad-ass loser when the Ecuadorian embassy finally kicked him out and he was arrested.
And quite frankly, we were OK with the initial charge against him recently unsealed in the Eastern District of Virginia. If you'll remember, he was charged with trying to help Chelsea Manning hack a password into the Defense Department, which is not what journalists do. Journalists do not drive the get-away car for sources. Journalists do not hold their sources' hair back while they're stealing classified intel. Assange is essentially accused of doing all that.
Now, put all that aside. Because -- and this is key -- journalists do publish secrets they are provided by sources. That's First Amendment, chapter and verse, American as fucking apple pie and fast-food-induced diabetes. And that is what much of the superseding indictment of Assange unsealed yesterday was about. (And nope, it wasn't about anything regarding Assange's ratfucking the 2016 election or Hillary's emails. Why would the Trump Justice Department prosecute anything about that? It's all about the older Chelsea Manning stuff, the stuff the Obama Justice Department considered charging Assange with, but ultimately declined, because of that little thing called the First Amendment.)
While you're putting aside everything you loathe about Assange, also put aside the question of whether he, himself, is a journalist, because he's not. But then again, neither is a random blogger on Tumblr who happens to have a source who provides them explosive secret information and who then chooses to publish it. Know who is a journalist? People like Jane Mayer and David Corn and Michael Isikoff and thousands of others, who, if the indictment against Assange were to be successful, could theoretically be prosecuted by the Trump Justice Department for publishing explosive secret information given to them by their sources.
Assange was indicted on 17 counts under the Espionage Act, and much of the new indictments revolves around Assange's publishing of the materials he had. The language it uses is pretty specific. It repeatedly says Assange stands accused of (emphasis ours) "having unauthorized possession of, access to, and control over documents relating to the national defense, willfully and unlawfully [causing and attempting to cause] such materials to be communicated, delivered, and transmitted to persons not entitled to receive them." (In other words, he published them.)
But wait, you say! Can we talk about how Assange is a piece of shit for a second, because didn't some of that publishing hurt innocent people? Surely, Wonkette at your service as usual!
In the indictment, it's alleged that Assange, in publishing State Department cables in 2010 and 2011, published the names of human sources in Afghanistan and Iraq, thereby endangering national security and those people's lives, and that secret Afghanistan war materials were found in the Abbottabad compound during the raid where Barack Obama killed the fuck out of Osama bin Laden. Indeed, it sounds like Bin Laden and the Taliban both tried to use the WikiLeaks/Chelsea Manning materials to further their own causes.
The indictment also lays bare the fact that Assange knew he was putting sources in danger, and that he didn't care. (He found it "regrettable.") He proceeded to publish more unredacted cables in 2011 after he was warned by the State Department in 2010 that publishing all that shit without redactions would endanger "countless innocent individuals—from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers." You betcha, Julian Assange is an ABSOLUTE piece of shit!
However, you know that thing terrible dictators and wanna-be dictators do, where they try their worst stuff out on people everybody hates anyway, just to see if they can get away with it? For an inexact corollary, remember how Donald Trump fired James Comey to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation, and thought he could get away with saying it was because of Comey's piss-poor handling of the Hillary Clinton emails investigation, because Democrats were SO PISSED at Comey because of said piss-poor handling? Remember how we all saw right through that and DumbFuck McPresident was just so confused why it didn't go over so well?
This could be sort of seen like that. And lookie loo, we're seein' right through it all over again!
Rachel Maddow explained all this in her show last night:
Donald Trump Administration Attacks First Amendment With Assange Charges | Rachel Maddow | MSNBCwww.youtube.com
Adam Serwer, who is kind of an expert on these things, writes about the implications of the new Assange indictments. Let's copy off his paper for a bit:
On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that it was charging Assange with violations of the Espionage Act for, among other things, seeking to "encourage those with access to protected information, including classified information," to offer it for "public disclosure." There is no sense in which those actions, if criminalized, do not also apply to media outlets like the New York Times.
The indictment alleges that Assange helped Manning decrypt a password for an Army computer to obtain classified information. But that is not the only act it is seeking to prosecute. The indictment explicitly states that Assange's crimes include an effort to "obtain documents, writings, and notes connected with the national defense, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense" and to "willfully communicate documents relating to the national defense." This describes, in the most basic sense, what national-security journalists do every day to ensure the public is informed about things that the government wishes to keep secret for them.
Nor does it matter whether Assange is a journalist. The First Amendment restricts the authority of the state to infringe on freedom of speech; allowing the government to determine who and who is not a journalist is just such an infringement. Moreover, the current president of the United States attacks every journalistic outlet that does not treat him with fawning subservience as "fake news." The line that some observers may think they are drawing between Assange and the New York Times is not one that the government is obliged to draw. And as the cries of "treason" during the Bush administration show, Trump's position on press freedoms is less a divergence from conservative orthodoxy than an escalation. If you value democracy, you simply do not want this administration, or any administration, deciding which people are journalists and which are criminals on the basis of whether what they publish makes government officials angry.
Serwer specifically refers to things like the Bush administration's torture practices and the warrantless wiretapping program, which were revealed by journalists who got their hands on classified intel. He also lists a whole shitload of stories about the Trump administration that we know about because leakers leaked, and journalists published. Lord, there are so many! As Serwer notes, everything we know about what Michael Flynn did with the Russians, how Trump golden showered Russian officials with highly classified intel in the Oval Office, and so much more, came first from journalists. But quite frankly, it wouldn't have mattered if they came from bloggers sitting on their beds in New Jersey. Or from Julian Assange, we guess.
So again, Assange is not a journalist. And he really can go fuck himself. He's an awful human being.
And these charges are WRONG and they're fucking scary.
Now, Assange may never see the inside of an American courtroom, now that these indictments have come out. The United Kingdom may just decide that actually they're not going to extradite him, because of how all free societies should be horrified by the Trump administration trying to criminalize the very act of journalism. At least we're hoping that's what the UK does! (Which. Is. Galling. But it is what it is!)
Serwer makes another important point about the precedent this would set:
Such prosecutions would not end the leaking of classified information—far from it. Rather, they would simply give the government a monopoly on such information, allowing officials to selectively leak classified information to manipulate the public, with no check on their ability to do so.
Hey, did you guys see that story about how Donald Trump is giving Attorney General Cover-Ups McFuckFace the authority to declassify anything interesting he finds in his unnecessary probe of the origins of the Russia investigation, in order to satiate Trump's desperate need for proof it was all a witch hunt? Barr is likely going to try to Devin Nunes this situation to mislead the American public yet again, by selectively revealing anything that, out of context, he thinks will make the Deep State look bad and his daddy Trump look good.
Now imagine that on a much larger scale.
Serwer briefly recounts the history of the Espionage Act, which he calls prima facie unconstitutional, and notes that both Bush and Obama (especially Obama, sadly) were bad about prosecuting leakers. But they didn't try to prosecute the Washington Post. And, as much as it pains us to say it -- did you hear Julian Assange is a piece of shit? he is that -- prosecuting Assange for publishing is the same as going after the Post. The Trump administration is just hoping it goes down easier with people who correctly think Assange is a piece of shit and might not otherwise care.
"First they came for Julian Assange, but I didn't care because OH WAIT JUST KIDDING I DID CARE, because if this were successful, they could literally go after Maggie Haberman, OH WAIT BAD EXAMPLE, what about Chuck Todd, LOCK HIM UP LOLOL wait, we are losing the script here, what we mean to say is that they could literally go after JANE MAYER."
Assange's actions helped elect an authoritarian president who seeks to use state force to destroy his political foes. Assange's prosecution may allow that same president to use the vast power of the federal government to crush those he has dubbed "the enemy of the people." If liberals allow their fear and anger over the 2016 election to blind them to this danger, they will be complicit in that outcome.
Pay close attention to this one. It's bad shit.
Oh, and by the way, HEY GLENN GREENWALD, IS IT DRIVING YOU CRAZY THAT RACHEL MADDOW AND WONKETTE AND ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE YOU THINK ARE DEEP STATE JOURNALISTS ARE FUCKING UP YOUR NARRATIVE RIGHT NOW BY DEFENDING PRESS FREEDOMS EVEN IN THE CASE OF AMERICA V. GLENN'S STINKY SHITHOLE FRIEND, WHOM EVERYBODY HATES?
We are just curious.
Follow Evan Hurst on Twitter RIGHT HERE, DO IT RIGHT HERE!
Wonkette is ad-free and funded ONLY by YOU, our dear readers. If you love Wonkette, SUPPORT WONKETTE.